The role of dispersal in structuring the Chitwan tiger population

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Dispersal in Panthera tigris was studied in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Thirty six adult and young were studied to monitor movements and social interactions relative to dispersal. Subadult tigers became semi-independent of their mother when her next litter was born. They usually remained within her natal area until the subsequent litter began to move with her at about 2 mo of age. Animals dispersed between 19-28 mos. Males dispersed farther than females and settle in poorer habitat. Three of four females settled adjacent to their mothers, in two cases the mother shifted her territory allowing the daughter to take over a large portion of the mother's former territory. Wounds on young prior to dispersal indicated that aggression prompted dispersal. After fights, dispersers always left the resident's area. All four dispersing females established breeding territories. Females settled next to their mothers tending to reduce the genetic variance of a male's offspring. Eight of 10 males became localized in temporary, post-dispersal territories, four of the eight survived. Surviving males either expanded temporary territories or shifted to new areas to establish breeding territories. Effective population size was <30 animals. Tigers did not disperse across cultivated areas but did travel through degraded forest habitat. No animal dispersed outside the Chitwan region and there appear to be effective barriers separating Chitwan from the two nearest populations 150 and 250 km distant. The Chitwan population is probably one of the largest tiger populations in the world. Isolation and small size threaten these populations with stochastic events that may lead to further reduction in population size. -Author

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-195
Number of pages31
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

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