Lahkar, D., Ahmed, M. F., Begum, R. H., Das, S. K., & Harihar, A. (2020). Responses of a wild ungulate assemblage to anthropogenic influences in Manas National Park, India. Biological Conservation, 243, 108425. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108425
Large carnivores have experienced significant global range contractions and recovering their populations is often contingent on increasing prey abundances. In Manas National Park (MNP), following nearly two decades of ethnopolitical conflict, studies document that populations of both prey and predators were depressed. Here we assess the status of wild ungulates in a section of MNP (Bansbari-Bhuyanpara) that has remained conflict-free for over a decade. For seven ungulate species, we estimate species-specific densities using distance-based sampling, assess species-specific space-use patterns in relation to habitat variables within an occupancy framework and examine patterns of temporal activity in relation to times when people access the park for resources. Further, by comparing temporal activity patterns of ungulates between MNP, a site where local communities access the park for resources, and Kaziranga National Park, where human use of the park is minimal, we examine if species activity is altered in response to human presence. We estimate that currently Bansbari-Bhuyanpara ranges of MNP support 42.66 (34.16–51.16) individual ungulates/km2. Our results highlight that current patterns of human access within the park affect both spatial and temporal behaviour of these species. Although we estimate a relatively high recovery potential for tigers in MNP given current prey densities, we suggest that further ungulate population recoveries could be supported in the park. With several ungulate species experiencing range-wide declines, efforts to minimize non-lethal human disturbances on these species also need to be considered to ensure that predator-prey systems remain intact.