Assessment of Wildlife Connectivity inside a Protected Area Using Circuit Theory Approach
AbstractAnimal behaviour such as dispersal and migration ensure their survival in the landscape. It has been established in the past few decades that wildlife conservation and study of their movement in the wilderness is vital for sustainable ecosystem. Thus, identification of regions having high movement permeability for planning and maintenance of functional wildlife corridors has turn out to be a fundamental requirement for habitat management. This study emphases on movement of big cats-Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) and Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) in the protected area of Rajaji National Park situated in Uttarakhand State of India. The National park is a designated tiger reserve with large amount of tigers and leopards at its disposal. Here, Circuitscape was used to generate connectivity map of the study area. The results were validated using occurrence points downloaded from GBIF. The habitat suitability and resistance of the landscape was estimated based on literature review and expert opinion survey. Since, both the species have comparable ecological niche, similar habitat parameters were used for generation of resistance map of the species. Occurrence points for the species were downloaded from GBIF. 60% of the points were used as nodes or focal points where species presence is recorded whereas 40% of the points were used in validation of the connectivity paths. Results depicts the current density map of the study area highlighting areas with high connectivity for the species.