a1 International Snow Leopard Trust (India Program), Nature Conservation Foundation, 3076/5 IV–Cross, Gokulam Park, Mysore–570002, Karnataka, India.
The Tibetan gazelle Procapra picticaudata is on the verge of extinction in India with only c. 100 individuals remaining in the Hanle Valley of eastern Ladakh and Sikkim. Conservation planning and initiation of a recovery programme are hindered by lack of ecological information on the species and we therefore assessed the biotic and abiotic correlates of its occurrence in the Hanle Valley. Ecological attributes of areas selected by gazelles were compared with those of adjoining areas without gazelles. Resource selection functions revealed that gazelles use relatively flat areas (6-15°) disproportionately during both summer and winter, and preferred south-facing slopes and avoided north-facing slopes during winter. Measurements of plant production using exclosures showed that herbivores removed up to 47% of the forage biomass from areas without gazelles, whereas only 29% was removed from areas with gazelles. Although areas selected by gazelles were only marginally more productive than areas not selected, the proportional representation of forbs in plant biomass was significantly higher in the former. Spatial co-occurrence patterns examined using null models revealed a significant negative relationship between distribution of gazelles and goats and sheep, and a significant positive relationship between gazelles and wild kiang Equus kiang and domestic yak Bos grunniens. Future in situ recovery programmes for the Tibetan gazelle in Ladakh need to focus on securing livestock-free, forb-dominated areas, with participation from the local pastoral community.
(Received October 04 2006)
(Reviewed November 17 2006)
(Accepted December 21 2006)
p1 Also at: Resource Ecology Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 3a, Lumen-100, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
p2 Also at: Biological Research Laboratories, Syracuse University, 130 College Place, Syracuse, NY–13244, USA.