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Evaluating the status of the Endangered tiger Panthera tigris and its prey in Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India

  • Rajesh Gopal (a1), Qamar Qureshi (a2), Manish Bhardwaj (a2), R.K. Jagadish Singh (a2) and Yadvendradev V. Jhala (a2)...

We evaluated the status of tigers Panthera tigris and their prey in Panna Tiger Reserve using occupancy surveys, camera-trap mark-recapture population estimation, and distance sampling along foot transects, in 2006. Forest Range tiger occupancy in the Panna landscape (3,500 km2) estimated by 1,077 surveys of 5 km each was 29% ± SE 1. Within occupied Ranges of the Reserve a mean of 68% ± SE 7 of forest Beats had tiger signs. A total of 800 camera-trap nights yielded 24 captures of seven individual adult tigers within an effective trap area of 185.0 ± SE 15.8 km-2. The best model incorporating individual heterogeneity (Mh) estimated the tiger population to be 9 ± SE 2. Tiger density was 4.9 ± SE 1.5 per 100 km2 and was lower than that reported in 2002 (6.49 tigers per 100 km2). Both occupancy and density indicated a decline of the tiger population in the Reserve. Mean ungulate density was 42.4 ± SE 8.4 km-2 and comparable to other tiger reserves. Since our survey in 2006 tiger status in Panna has deteriorated further because of poaching. Panna was occupied by dacoits in late 2006 and anti-insurgent activities caused further disturbances. In late 2008 there was a single male tiger left in Panna but he has not been seen since January 2009. The Madhya Pradesh Forest department has reintroduced three tigers to Panna from neighbouring tiger reserves. Panna, along with Sariska Tiger Reserve, exemplifies the vulnerability of small, isolated tiger populations to local extinctions caused by poaching, even in areas with suitable habitat and sufficient prey.

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*Wildlife Institute of India, Post Box #18, Dehradun 248001, Uttarakhand, India. E-mail
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