Looking beyond protected areas: Identifying conservation compatible landscapes in agro-forest mosaics in north-eastern India

Abstract

Small-sized protected areas face increasing pressures from developmental activities and are often rendered inadequate and isolated to conserve wide-ranging species. However, in situations where wildlife persists outside protected areas, conservation goals may be met by aligning the ecological needs of wildlife with the socio-economic needs of local communities and offsetting losses arising due to shared spaces. We explore the potential of a tea-plantation dominated landscape of multiple land-use in north-eastern India to conserve the Asian elephant and the Indian leopard. We assess conservation potential by identifying predictors of species use of particular habitats using species distribution models and identify challenges by reviewing the available literature. Elephants used ~680 km2 of this 1200 km2 non-forested landscape; within this area, habitats with a higher proportion of deciduous forest patches were favored. Leopards were found to be ubiquitous in tea-plantation and used ~950 km2 of the study area, with the proportion of tea cover being the single best predictor of leopard habitat-use. With more than 30 human deaths and 100 injuries per year caused by these two species in the study area alone, the high frequency of human casualties and economic losses remain the prime hurdles to long-term conservation efforts. We discuss specific mitigation measures to reduce human casualties and call for the inclusion of important stakeholders in the mitigation process. The study provides a template for identifying conservation-compatible landscapes outside protected areas and a framework for identifying challenges and potential to mitigate current or future conservation conflicts

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Last time updated on 16/03/2020

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