Identifying species, sex and individual tigers and leopards in the Malenad-Mysore Tiger Landscape, Western Ghats, India
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Assessing the distribution, abundance and demographic ratios of endangered and elusive co-occurring carnivore species at a landscape level is important for their continued survival. Despite potential to determine distribution and dietary analyses, use of faecal samples has been relatively limited in the context of multiple sympatric species living at large landscapes. We developed and optimized a range of novel non-invasive molecular techniques for species, gender and individual identification of tiger (Panthera tigris) and leopard (Panthera pardus). We collected a large number of faecal samples as part of a pilot occupancy survey in the Malenad-Mysore Tiger Landscape, Western Ghats, India. We could genetically ascertain species and gender for 88 and 57 % of the field-collected samples respectively. Additionally, we also determined a panel of nine and eight polymorphic loci for tiger and leopard individual identification, resulting in 18 tigers and 39 leopards from varied quality field-collected samples. Our pilot study suggest such molecular approaches will help in future efforts to gather landscape level distribution, demographic and other ecological information on tigers and leopards across their distribution.
KeywordsSpecies identification Molecular sexing Panthera tigris Panthera pardus Carnivore conservation
We are thankful to the forest department of Karnataka for providing permits to carry out the research in this landscape. We also thank the CWS field teams, local forest officials and volunteers for their assistance. We thank V. Kolipakam, R. Samant, P. Yadav and other Ramakrishnan lab members for their help during this study. SM was supported by Department of Science and Technology INSPIRE Faculty Award. This research was funded by Department of Science and Technology, Government of India grant awarded to KUK and UR, National Centre for Biological Sciences, and Wildlife Conservation Society. Center for Wildlife Studies provided logistical and material supports for the fieldwork. UR was supported by the Ramanujan fellowship.
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