Habitat for tigers and many carnivores is fragmented and degraded to an extent that the existing land base supporting discrete tiger populations is often inadequate to maintain viable populations. Using fine-scale location data of dispersing tigers, we studied their exploratory movements in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM), where the last remaining viable tiger population in mainland Southeast Asia resides. We mapped 21,897 locations of three satellite-collared tigers as they made 11 forays from the vicinity of their natal areas in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary to four adjacent protected areas in WEFCOM and Myanmar. Our objectives were to describe (1) the spatial and temporal movements of dispersing tigers and (2) the quality of habitat moved through during dispersal and at the time they established a territory. We used the probability of tiger occupancy at hourly locations as a measure of quality of the habitat traversed by dispersing tigers, and we compared these probabilities of use to probabilities at hourly locations of resident, breeding females. Dispersal forays lasted 3 to 52 days and ranged from 29 to 301 km. During these forays, tigers explored areas where the probability of tiger habitat use ranged from 0.212 to 0.961. One dispersing female settled in a territory with a 0.721 probability of use in the range of use in the territories of 10 breeding females (p = 0.600–0.914). This study produced the first high temporal resolution data of tiger dispersal movements in a landscape where the occurrence and probability of use by tigers is known. These data also support modeling of dispersal and landscape resistance that provides critical information for managers seeking to increase connectivity and extent of tiger habitat.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We acknowledge the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation for supporting this research and the help provided by the chiefs of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Sunthorn Chaiwatana and Apicha Yusombune. We are also grateful to research assistants Somporn Pakpien, Onsa Norasarn, Thavorn Thadvichit, Kerkpol Wongchu, Boonyang Srichan, Yingbune Chongsomchai, Kerati Phetong, Nattakarn Pengmark, Namkang Saelee, and Parinyakorn Worawan for their help with the capture of tigers and field data collection. We are particularly grateful to Francesca J. Cuthbert, two anonymous reviewers, and the Associate Editor for helpful comments on the manuscript. Funding for radio-collaring tigers was provided by the Thai Rukpa Foundation, Rabbit in the Moon Foundation, and the USFWS Rhinoceros Tiger Fund; Smith’s contribution to this study was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Project No. MIN-41-002).
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Mammal Research Institute Polish Academy of Sciences.
- Dispersal movements
- Habitat quality
- Natal territory
- Young adult tiger