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Niche breadth and overlap among two sympatric wild ungulates and domestic cattle in Shuklaphanta National Park, Nepal
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  • Siddhartha Regmi,
  • Bijaya Neupane,
  • Bijaya Dhami,
  • Deepak Gautam,
  • Saroj Panthi,
  • Megharaj Poudel
Siddhartha Regmi
Tribhuvan University, Institute of Forestry, Hetauda

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Bijaya Neupane
Institute of Forestry
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Bijaya Dhami
Institute of Forestry
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Deepak Gautam
Institute of Forestry
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Saroj Panthi
Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment
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Megharaj Poudel
6. Forest Research and Training Centre, Babarmahal, Kathmandu, Nepal
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Understanding niche overlap with other wild species and domestic cattle is useful to conserve and manage the wildlife in their natural habitat. We assessed habitat niche breadth and overlap among the two sympatric wild ungulates: spotted deer (Axis axis) and swamp deer (Cervus duvaucelii) and, indigenous intermediate ruminants, and domestic cattle in Shuklaphanta National Park, Nepal during the dry season. Our objective was to explore the interspecific competition by studying the habitat use by these species. The assumption was made that the presence of pellets is a proof for habitat used by species. Grid based surveys with total 96 sample plots each of size 20 m * 20 m in 6 sample grids (2 * 2 km2) with 24 sub-grids (500 * 500 m2) were used for locating pellets group. Levin’s niche breadth and Morisita’s overlap index were calculated to determine the niche breadth, and the habitat overlap respectively. The Levin’s measure of niche breadth suggested that spotted deer had the highest adaptability with an index value of 0.94 followed by domestic cattle 0.50, and swamp deer 0.33 in our study area. Thus, it was concluded that spotted deer is a habitat generalist whereas swamp deer are specialists and mostly preferred grasslands after a fire. Also, there was high habitat overlap index value of 0.83 between domestic cattle and spotted deer whereas the swamp deer and the spotted deer showed moderate habitat overlap of 0.57. The swamp deer had low habitat overlap as well as spatial overlap with domestic cattle. Grassland management should be carried out for the benefit of ungulate species as the study showed the preference of swamp deer on grassland after a fire. Similar studies should be conducted including seasons and places prior to implementing appropriate habitat management activities intended to reduce interspecific competition for co-existence.