Livestock losses and hotspots of attack from tigers and leopards in Kanha Tiger Reserve, Central India

Abstract

Carnivore attacks on livestock are a primary driver of human–carnivore conflict and carnivore decline globally. Livestock depredation is particularly threatening to carnivore conservation in Central India, a priority landscape and stronghold for the endangered tiger. To strengthen the effectiveness of conflict mitigation strategies, we examined the spatial and temporal patterns and physical characteristics of livestock depredation in Kanha Tiger Reserve. We combined livestock compensation historical records (2001–2009) with ground surveys (2011–2012) and carnivore scat to identify when and where livestock species were most vulnerable. Between 400 and 600 livestock were reported for financial compensation each year, and most (91–95 %) were successfully reimbursed. Tigers and leopards were responsible for nearly all livestock losses and most often killed in the afternoon and early evening. Cattle and buffalo were most at risk in dense forests away from villages and roads, whereas goats were most often killed in open vegetation near villages. A spatial predation risk model for cattle revealed high-risk hotspots around the core zone boundary, confirming the significant risks to livestock grazing illegally in the core. Such ecological insights on carnivore–livestock interactions may help improve species-specific livestock husbandry for minimizing livestock losses and enabling coexistence between people and carnivores.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Rajesh Gopal and the National Tiger Conservation Authority for permissions and facilitation for carrying out this research. We acknowledge the Madhya Pradesh Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, H. S. Pabla, for granting research permission and the Wildlife Institute of India for institutional support. We are very grateful to the Kanha Forest Department for providing historical records and field support, especially Field Director J. S. Chauhan, Research Officer Rakesh Shukla, and the wireless controllers, forest guards, and chowkidars who helped us survey sites. We thank Naseem Khan, Arvind Thakur, Ashish Bais, Amol Khumbar, and Ashish Prasad for assisting with data collection. This manuscript benefited from discussions with Oswald Schmitz, Anne Trainor, and Meghna Agarwala as well as feedback from several anonymous reviewers. Maya Lim assisted with graphic design. We thank Ruth DeFries, Trishna Dutta, and Sandeep Sharma for coordinating and editing this special issue. Funding was provided by the American Institute for Indian Studies; American Philosophical Society Lewis and Clark; Association of Zoos and Aquariums; John Ball Zoo Society; Yale Tropical Resources Institute; and the National Science Foundation GRFP.

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Correspondence to Jennifer R. B. Miller.

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Miller, J.R.B., Jhala, Y.V. & Jena, J. Livestock losses and hotspots of attack from tigers and leopards in Kanha Tiger Reserve, Central India. Reg Environ Change 16, 17–29 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-015-0871-5

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Keywords

  • Carnivore conservation
  • Hotspot predation risk map
  • Human–carnivore conflict
  • Kill site
  • Livestock depredation
  • Livestock compensation