Diversity, Occupancy, and Spatio-temporal Occurrences of Mammalian Predators in Bhutan's Jigme Dorji National Park
Keywords:Predator diversity, spatio-temporal occurrences, occupancy, human settlements, camera trap, large predators, medium-sized predators, Bhutan
Spatio-temporal occurrences and distribution of a full complement of wild predators may provide insights into their ecology and niche partitioning, and thus may be invaluable for conservation of many rare species. A first comprehensive camera trapping effort, including 7,462 trap-days during fall and winter of 2011-2012 in the temperate and subalpine forests of Bhutan’s Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP), yielded 407 photographs of 12 species of wild predators belonging to 6 families. In the photographs, predator diversity was dominated by six felids, the most predominant being tiger (Panthera tigris Linnaeus) and Asiatic golden cat (Pardofelis temminckii Vigors and Horsfield). The photographs were further analysed using the programme PRESENCE to estimate patch occupancy and detection
probability for each predator species. Overall, the yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula Boddaert) was found to have the highest relative abundance index of 1.26. There were also seasonal differences in occurrence. Dholes (Cuon alpinus Pallas) had the highest occupancy estimates among all predators in both fall (92% ± SE 0.56) and winter (98% ± SE 0.52). Tiger occupancy was much higher in winter (56% ± SE 0.14) than during fall (18% ± SE 0.07). Of all the predators, dholes seemed to have the broadest spatial distribution with 47 images, spread widely among 25 camera stations. Although the predators were found to be sympatric, they were separated in their temporal niches. Tigers were mostly active during night, dholes during day, and leopards (Panthera pardus Linnaeus) during both day
and night. Most predators occurred in all four major habitat types, but mixed conifer forest contained the highest diversity of wild predators. Through this study, the baseline occupancy of wild predators during both fall and winter were established in the park to support future monitoring programmes. This study underscores JDNP as an important conservation area for wild predators, most notably cat species.