Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

Is competition with livestock detrimental for native wild ungulates? A case study of chital (Axis axis) in Gir Forest, India

Chittaranjan Davea1 c1 and Yadvendradev Jhalaa1

a1 Dept of Animal Ecology & Conservation Biology, Wildlife Institute of India, PO Box 18, Dehradun 248001, India

Abstract:

Livestock graze Indian forests to varying extents but their impact on wild native ungulates is rarely understood. Negative impacts of sympatric livestock on chital (Axis axis) demography and food availability were assessed and compared in the Gir Forest, India, at different spatio-temporal scales. No difference in average group size (mean ± SE) (7.11 ± 0.8 indiv.) (short-term response), fawn to doe ratio (0.43 ± 0.03) (short- to medium-term response), chital density (44.8 ± 7.1 indiv. km−2) (medium- to long-term response), and rate of population increase (r = 0.07 ± 0.014) (long-term response) was found between areas sympatric and livestock-free at the larger spatial scale of Gir Forest. Instead, chital density was correlated with rainfall (r = 0.92). After controlling for confounding factors of rainfall, vegetation community, terrain and lion density, chital density was 62% higher for livestock-free compared with sympatric areas but other demographic parameters showed no statistical difference. Peak above-ground biomass was greater in livestock-free (3255 ± 209 kg ha−1) compared to sympatric areas (1438 ± 152 kg ha−1), but chital food was more abundant in moderately grazed areas compared to livestock-free areas. Overall, long-term livestock grazing has depressive effects on chital but in the short term habitat productivity and suitability overrides the depressive effects of sympatric livestock.

(Accepted October 21 2010)

(Online publication March 10 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding author. Email: cvdave@yahoo.co.uk