Coexistence Between Wildlife and Humans at Fine Spatial Scales
Carter, Neil H., Binoj K. Shrestha, Jhamak B. Karki, Narendra Man Babu Pradhan, and Jianguo Liu. 2012. “Coexistence Between Wildlife and Humans at Fine Spatial Scales.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(38):15360-15365.
Many wildlife species face imminent extinction because of human impacts, and therefore, a prevailing belief is that some wildlife species, particularly large carnivores and ungulates, cannot coexist with people at fine spatial scales (i.e., cannot regularly use the exact same point locations). This belief provides rationale for various conservation programs, such as resettling human communities outside protected areas. However, quantitative information on the capacity and mechanisms for wildlife to coexist with humans at fine spatial scales is scarce. Such information is vital, because the world is becoming increasingly crowded. Here, we provide empirical information about the capacity and mechanisms for tigers (a globally endangered species) to coexist with humans at fine spatial scales inside and outside Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, a flagship protected area for imperiled wildlife. Information obtained from field cameras in 2010 and 2011 indicated that human presence (i.e., people on foot and vehicles) was ubiquitous and abundant throughout the study site; however, tiger density was also high. Surprisingly, even at a fine spatial scale (i.e., camera locations), tigers spatially overlapped with people on foot and vehicles in both years. However, in both years, tigers offset their temporal activity patterns to be much less active during the day when human activity peaked. In addition to temporal displacement, tiger–human coexistence was likely enhanced by abundant tiger prey and low levels of tiger poaching. Incorporating fine-scale spatial and temporal activity patterns into conservation plans can help address a major global challenge—meeting human needs while sustaining wildlife.