Skip to main content

Losing time for the tiger Panthera tigris: delayed action puts a globally threatened species at risk of local extinction

  • Abishek Harihar (a1), Mousumi Ghosh-Harihar (a2) and Douglas C. MacMillan (a1)

Meeting global and regional environmental targets is challenging, given the multiplicity of stakeholders and their diverse and often competing policy agendas and objectives. Relatively few studies have sought to systematically analyse the progress, or lack thereof, of institutionally complex and diffuse projects. Here we analyse one such project, which aims to protect and restore a critical landscape corridor for tigers Panthera tigris in north-western India, using a temporal–analytic framework that integrates ecological information on species population status and spatial connectivity modelling with a systematic examination of the decision-making process. We find that even with adequate ecological knowledge the tiger population is on the verge of local extinction because of weak institutional support, poor adaptive planning and ineffective leadership in a complex political arena, which has led to delays in conservation action. From the outset the conservation agencies and NGOs that were the primary drivers of the project lacked awareness of the political idiosyncrasies of coordinating the actions of disparate agencies within the decision-making process. To secure better future environmental outcomes we recommend the adoption of an improved project appraisal methodology that explicitly encompasses an evaluation of organizational incentives, to determine political buy-in, including alignment with organizational objectives and funding availability.

Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail,
Hide All

Also at: Panthera, New York, USA, and Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, Karnataka, India

Supplementary material for this article can be found at

Hide All
Backhouse G.N., Clark T.W. & Reading R.P. (1994) The Australian eastern barred bandicoot recovery program: evaluation and reorganization. In Endangered Species Recovery: Finding the Lessons, Improving the Process (eds Clark T.W., Reading R.P. & Clarke A.L.), pp. 251274. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA.
Badola R. (1993) WII's research inputs in U.P. Siwaliks with special reference to elephant conservation. In Abstracts: Seventh Annual Research Seminar, p. 13. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India.
Balmford A. & Cowling R.M. (2006) Fusion or failure? The future of conservation biology. Conservation Biology, 20, 692695.
Black S.A. & Groombridge J.J. (2010) Use of a business excellence model to improve conservation programs. Conservation Biology, 24, 14481458.
Black S.A., Groombridge J.J. & Jones C.G. (2011) Leadership and conservation effectiveness: finding a better way to lead. Conservation Letters, 4, 329339.
Brodie J.F., Giordano A.J., Dickson B., Hebblewhite M., Bernard H., Mohd-Azlan J. et al. (2015) Evaluating multispecies landscape connectivity in a threatened tropical mammal community. Conservation Biology, 29, 122132.
Clark T.W. & Brunner R.D. (2002) Making partnerships work in endangered species conservation: an introduction to the decision process. Endangered Species Update, 19, 7480.
Clark T.W., Reading R.P. & Clarke A.L. (eds) (1994) Endangered Species Recovery: Finding the Lessons, Improving the Process. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA.
Crabtree J.R., Bayfield N., Chalmers N.A. & MacMillan D.C. (1997) A socio-economic and environmental appraisal of the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme in Scotland. Scottish Forestry, 51, 8491.
Davies A.L. & White R.M. (2012) Collaboration in natural resource governance: reconciling stakeholder expectations in deer management in Scotland. Journal of Environmental Management, 112, 160169.
FOS (Foundations of Success) (2009) Using results chains to improve strategy effectiveness: an FOS how-to guide. Http:// [accessed 2 August 2017].
Ghosh P.K. (2003) Local NGO movement for conservation of the Chilla-Motichur corridor. In Securing the Chilla Motichur Corridor: A Status Report (eds Menon V., Easa P. & Johnsingh A.J.T.), pp. 3435. Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi, India.
Guillera-Arroita G. (2011) Impact of sampling with replacement in occupancy studies with spatial replication. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2, 401406.
Harihar A. & Goyal S.P. (2010) Population and Habitat Viability of Tiger Subpopulations in the North-Western Terai Arc Landscape. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India.
Harihar A. & Pandav B. (2012) Influence of connectivity, wild prey and disturbance on occupancy of tigers in the human-dominated western Terai Arc Landscape. PLoS ONE, 7(7), e40105.
Harihar A., Pandav B. & MacMillan D.C. (2014) Identifying realistic recovery targets and conservation actions for tigers in a human-dominated landscape using spatially explicit densities of wild prey and their determinants. Diversity and Distributions, 20, 567578.
Harihar A., Prasad D.L., Ri C., Pandav B. & Goyal S.P. (2009) Losing ground: tigers Panthera tigris in the north-western Shivalik landscape of India. Oryx, 43, 3543.
Harihar A., Veríssimo D. & MacMillan D.C. (2015) Beyond compensation: integrating local communities’ livelihood choices in large carnivore conservation. Global Environmental Change, 33, 122130.
Henderson M., Yeh E.T., Gong P., Elvidge C. & Baugh K. (2003) Validation of urban boundaries derived from global night-time satellite imagery. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 24, 595609.
Johnsingh A.J.T. (2001) Establishment of Chilla–Motichur corridor for elephant and tiger movement. WII Newsletter, 8, 13.
Johnsingh A.J.T. (2003) The need for the establishment of the Chilla–Motichur corridor for elephant and tiger movement. In Securing the Chilla–Motichur Corridor: A Status Report (eds Menon V., Easa P. & Johnsingh A.J.T.), pp. 2235. Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi, India.
Johnsingh A.J.T. (2006) Status and conservation of the tiger in Uttaranchal, northern India. Ambio, 35, 135137.
Johnsingh A.J.T. & Joshua J. (1994) Conserving Rajaji and Corbett National Parks—the elephant as a flagship species. Oryx, 28, 135140.
Johnsingh A.J.T. & Madhusudan M.D. (2009) Tiger reintroduction in India: conservation tool or costly dream? In Reintroduction of Top-Order Predators (eds Hayward M.W. & Somers M.), pp. 146163. Blackwell Publishing, Chichester, UK.
Johnsingh A.J.T. & Negi A.S. (2003) Status of tiger and leopard in Rajaji–Corbett Conservation Unit, northern India. Biological Conservation, 111, 385393.
Johnsingh A.J.T., Prasad S.N. & Goyal S.P. (1990) Conservation status of the Chila–Motichur corridor for elephant movement in Rajaji–Corbett National Parks area, India. Biological Conservation, 51, 125138.
Johnsingh A.J.T., Qureshi Q., Mohan D.M. & Williams A.C. (2003) The north-western elephant range. In Securing the Chilla–Motichur Corridor: A Status Report (eds Menon V., Easa P. & Johnsingh A.J.T.), pp. 721. Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi, India.
Johnsingh A.J.T., Ramesh K., Qureshi Q., David A., Goyal S., Rawat G. et al. (2004) Conservation Status of Tiger and Associated Species in the Terai Arc Landscape, India. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India.
Johnsingh A.J.T. & Williams A.C. (1999) Elephant corridors in India: lessons for other elephant range countries. Oryx, 33, 210214.
Joshi A., Vaidyanathan S., Mondol S., Edgaonkar A. & Ramakrishnan U. (2013) Connectivity of tiger (Panthera tigris) populations in the human-influenced forest mosaic of central India. PLoS ONE, 8(11), e77980.
Joshi R. (2015) Tusker's social bonds in Rajaji. Hystrix, The Italian Journal of Mammalogy, 26, 4145.
Joshi R. (2016) Rajaji Tiger Reserve: conservation opportunities and challenges. Current Science, 110, 959960.
Joshi R. & Singh R. (2007) Asian elephants are losing their seasonal traditional movement tracks: a decade of study in and around the Rajaji National Park, India. Gajah, 27, 1526.
Joshi R. & Singh R. (2008) Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and riparian wildlife corridors: a case study from lesser-Himalayan zone of Uttarakhand. The Journal of American Science, 4, 6375.
Joshi R., Singh R. & Rishikesh D. (2009) Wildlife corridors and Asian elephants (Elephas maximus): lessons from Rajaji National Park, north-west India. Journal of American Science, 5, 3140.
Jumani S., Rao S., Machado S. & Prakash A. (2017) Big concerns with small projects: evaluating the socio-ecological impacts of small hydropower projects in India. Ambio, 46, 500511.
Kendall W.L. & White G.C. (2009) A cautionary note on substituting spatial subunits for repeated temporal sampling in studies of site occupancy. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46, 11821188.
Khan A., Johnsingh A.J.T., Chowdhary S. & Sale J.B. (1989) Report on Rajaji Project, March 1987–December 1988. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India.
Kørnøv L. & Thissen W.A.H. (2000) Rationality in decision- and policy-making: implications for strategic environmental assessment. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 18, 191200.
Lochner P., Weaver A., Gelderblom C., Peart R., Sandwith T. & Fowkes S. (2003) Aligning the diverse: the development of a biodiversity conservation strategy for the Cape Floristic Region. Biological Conservation, 112, 2943.
MacKenzie D.I., Nichols J.D., Lachman G.B., Droege S., Royle J.A. & Langtimm C.A. (2002) Estimating site occupancy rates when detection probabilities are less than one. Ecology, 83, 22482255.
MacMillan D.C., Harley D. & Morrison R. (1998) Cost-effectiveness analysis of woodland ecosystem restoration. Ecological Economics, 27, 313324.
MacMillan D.C. & Marshall K. (2006) The Delphi process—an expert-based approach to ecological modelling in data-poor environments. Animal Conservation, 9, 1119.
MacMillan D.C. & Phillip S. (2010) Can economic incentives resolve conservation conflict: the case of wild deer management and habitat conservation in the Scottish highlands. Human Ecology, 38, 485493.
Mamgain R.P. (2007) Growth, Poverty and Employment in Uttarakhand. Institute for Human Development, New Delhi, India.
Manolis J.C., Chan K.M., Finkelstein M.E., Stephens S., Nelson C.R., Grant J.B. & Dombeck M.P. (2009) Leadership: a new frontier in conservation science. Conservation Biology, 23, 879886.
Margoluis R., Stem C., Swaminathan V., Brown M., Johnson A., Placci G. et al. (2013) Results chains: a tool for conservation action design, management, and evaluation. Ecology and Society, 18, 22,
Maris V. & Béchet A. (2010) From adaptive management to adjustive management: a pragmatic account of biodiversity values. Conservation Biology, 24, 966973.
Martin T.G., Nally S., Burbidge A.A., Arnall S., Garnett S.T., Hayward M.W. et al. (2012) Acting fast helps avoid extinction. Conservation Letters, 5, 274280.
McRae B.H., Dickson B.G., Keitt T.H. & Shah V.B. (2008) Using circuit theory to model connectivity in ecology, evolution, and conservation. Ecology, 89, 27122724.
McRae B.H., Shah V.B. & Mohapatra T.K. (2013) Circuitscape 4 User Guide. The Nature Conservancy. Http://
Nandy S., Kushwaha S.P.S. & Mukhopadhyay S. (2007) Monitoring the Chilla–Motichur wildlife corridor using geospatial tools. Journal for Nature Conservation, 15, 237244.
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) (2017) Earth Observation Group (EOG). Http:// [accessed 15 January 2016].
NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority) (2015) Standard Operating Procedure for Active Management Towards Rehabilitation of Tigers from Source Areas at the Landscape Level. Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, New Delhi, India.
Rasaily S.S. (2012) Management Plan of Rajaji National Park, 2012–13 to 2021–2022. Uttarakhand Forest Department, Dehradun, India.
Rathore H.S. (2015) Response of leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) in varying density of tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) in Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand. MSc thesis. Saurashtra University, Rajkot, India.
Redpath S.M., Young J., Evely A., Adams W.M., Sutherland W.J., Whitehouse A. et al. (2013) Understanding and managing conservation conflicts. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 28, 100109.
Ross J.P. (1998) Crocodiles: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Salafsky N., Margoluis R., Redford K.H. & Robinson J.G. (2002) Improving the practice of conservation: a conceptual framework and research agenda for conservation science. Conservation Biology, 16, 14691479.
Sanderson E., Forrest J., Loucks C., Ginsberg J., Dinerstein E., Seidensticker J. et al. (2006) Setting Priorities for the Conservation and Recovery of Wild Tigers: 2005–2015. Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Washington, DC, USA.
Saxena K.G. (1986) Forest cover changes between proposed Rajaji National Park and Corbett National Park during the period 1972–1983 for identifying elephant corridors. In Proceedings of the Seminar-Cum-Workshop on Wildlife Habitat Evaluation using Remote Sensing Techniques, pp. 229–237.
Singh A.K., Easa P., Kumar A. & Menon V. (2003a) Securing the Chilla–Motichur corridor. In Securing the Chilla–Motichur Corridor: A Status Report (eds Menon V., Easa P. & Johnsingh A.J.T.), pp. 3647. Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi, India.
Singh A.K., Easa P., Menon V. & Mookherjee A. (2003b) Elephant mortality in train accident: a scientific approach to understanding and mitigating this problem in Rajaji National Park. In Securing the Chilla–Motichur Corridor: A Status Report (eds Menon V., Easa P.K. & Johnsingh A.J.T.), pp. 4873. Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi, India.
Singh A.K. & Gureja N. (2001) Elephant conflict issues: two resolution case studies from India. In National Symposium on Elephant Conservation, Management and Research, Rajaji National Park, Uttaranchal, pp. 16–20.
Singh A.P. & Chalisgaonkar R. (2006) Restoration of Corridors to Facilitate the Movement of Wild Asian Elephants in Rajaji-Corbett Elephant Range, INDIA. Uttarakhand State Irrigation Department, Roorkee, India.
Singh A.P. & Sharma R.C. (2001) Conflicts between linear developments and Asian elephants in sub-Himalayan zone of Uttranchal. In Proceedings of the 2001 International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (eds Irwin C., Garrett P. & K. McDermott ), pp. 423432. Center for Transportation and the Environment, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA.
Singh K.N. (2002) A strategy for conservation of the habitat of north-western population of Indian elephants. Indian Forester, 128, 10611077.
Singh R., Qureshi Q., Sankar K., Krausman P.R. & Goyal S.P. (2013) Use of camera traps to determine dispersal of tigers in semi-arid landscape, western India. Journal of Arid Environments, 98, 105108.
Sinha S. (2003) Management and acquisition of the Chilla–Motichur corridor. In Securing the Chilla–Motichur Corridor: A Status Report (eds Menon V., Easa P.S. & Johnsingh A.J.T.), pp. 2533. Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi, India.
Smith J.L.D. (1993) The role of dispersal in structuring the Chitwan tiger population. Behaviour, 124, 165195.
Thapliyal J. (2017) Tigers relocation at Rajaji reserve after monsoon. The Tribune. Http:// [accessed 24 August 2017].
Uniyal S., Agrawal S., Rana M.S. & Verma Y.S. (2006) Bibliography on Rajaji National Park, Envis Bulletin: Wildlife and Protected Areas. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India.
VanderWerf E.A., Groombridge J.J., Fretz J.S. & Swinnerton K.J. (2006) Decision analysis to guide recovery of the po‘ouli, a critically endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper. Biological Conservation, 129, 383392.
Wallace R.L. (1994) The Florida manatee recovery program: uncertain information, uncertain policy. In Endangered Species Recovery: Finding the Lessons, Improving the Process (eds Clark T.W., Reading R.P. & Clark A.L.), pp. 131156. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA.
Wilhere G.F. (2002) Adaptive management in habitat conservation plans. Conservation Biology, 16, 2029.
Williams A.C., Johnsingh A.J.T. & Krausman P.R. (2001) Elephant–human conflicts in Rajaji National Park, northwestern India. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 29, 10971104.
Williams A.C., Johnsingh A.J.T., Krausman P.R. & Qureshi Q. (2008) Ranging and habitat selection by Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Rajaji National Park, north-west India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 105, 2433.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Harihar et al. supplementary material
Supplementary Material

 PDF (1.2 MB)
1.2 MB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 19 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 418 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 7th November 2017 - 13th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.