Factors associated with co-occurrence of large carnivores in a human-dominated landscape
We investigated the factors facilitating co-occurrence of two large carnivores, tigers (Panthera tigris) and common leopards (Panthera pardus), within a human-dominated landscape. We estimated their density and population size using camera-trap photographs and examined spatial segregation of habitats, temporal activity pattern, and diets in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. A Bayesian spatially-explicit capture-recapture model estimated densities of 3.2–4.6 (3.94±0.37) tigers and 2.6–4.1 (3.31±0.4) leopards per 100 km2 with abundance of 70–102 tigers and 66–105 leopards. Tigers occupied the prime habitats (grasslands and riverine forests) in alluvial foodplains of the Park whereas leopards appeared in Sal forests and marginal areas where livestock are present. Both tigers and leopards showed crepuscular activity patterns with a high overlap but tigers were less active during the day compared to leopards. Leopards’ activity in the day increased in the presence of tigers. Tiger and leopard diet overlapped considerably (90%). Compared to leopards, tigers consumed a higher proportion of the large prey and a smaller proportion of livestock. Our study demonstrates that sympatric large carnivores can coexist in high densities in prey rich areas that contain a mosaics of habitats. To increase the resilience and size of the Chitwan carnivore population, strategies are needed to increase prey biomass and prevent livestock depredation in adjacent forests. Long-term monitoring is also required to obtain a detailed understanding of the interaction between the large carnivores and their effects on local communities living in forest fringes within the landscape.