International Journal of
Biodiversity and Conservation

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Biodivers. Conserv.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-243X
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJBC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 638

Full Length Research Paper

A multi-method approach for the inventory of the adult population of a critically endangered crocodilian, the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) at Dhikala, Corbett Tiger Reserve incorporating direct counts and trail cameras

S. M. Chowfin
  • S. M. Chowfin
  • The Gadoli and Manda Khal Wildlife Conservation Trust, P.O. Box 27, Pauri, District Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, India.
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A. J. Leslie
  • A. J. Leslie
  • Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Faculty of Agri Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, Matieland, 7600, South Africa.
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  •  Accepted: 12 December 2013
  •  Published: 28 February 2014

Abstract

The Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), a very highly rated protected area in the State of Uttarakhand, India, is home to the third largest breeding population of adult gharial globally. It contributes 20% to the estimated global population of 200 - 250 adults of the taxon and it is also the only known population of the taxon which lives predominantly in a lake-like environment. CTR was surveyed for gharial in 2008 which was the first systematic survey with regard to the taxon since 1974 and the meta-population here was found distributed amongst six sub-populations in the Sarpduli, Dhikala, Kalagarh, Sonanadi, Palain and Adnala Ranges of the Reserve. This paper documents a multi-method approach for the estimation of gharial at Dhikala (Dhikala Range) namely: at the confluence of the Ramganga River with the Kalagarh Reservoir. It details the use of trail cameras combined with boat surveys along the shoreline and stationary counts for estimating the adult population of gharial at Dhikala, the site of the largest sub-population of gharial in CTR. Using this multi-method approach to count basking animals, we estimated the adult population in the area to consist of 32 adults (inclusive of seven adult males) based on the maximum ± minimum (MM) method.  We also considered the unknown proportion of adults that may have gone undetected during these surveys by subjecting the data to a Double Sampling analysis. The results are indicative that we were able to sample 88.9% of the adult gharial population at Dhikala using this Multi-Method Approach. Based on our three population estimates (n= 29, 32 and 36) we averaged the adult population at Dhikala as 32.3 ± 1.69 adults (Mean ± SE) with an encounter rate of 4.01 ± 0.33 adults km⁻¹ over 8.06 km of shoreline. Further, comparing population estimates between 2008 and 2013 based on the maximum ± minimum (MM) method, we estimated that the number of adults in Dhikala increased by 77.8% between 2008 and 2013. This increase in adult gharial numbers detected in the study area between 2008 and 2013 is primarily a result of: (1) Improved survey techniques which detected more number of animals in the area due to the cumulative effects of population growth from sub-adults to adults, in-migration and the possibility of some animals being missed during the 2008 surveys; (2) improved knowledge and familiarity with the study area; (3) effective protection measures already in place in CTR particularly in Corbett National Park (CNP), which has allowed the adult population to increase naturally without any disturbances. The ability of this multi-method approach in detecting these changes in numbers is important for monitoring the taxon and studying population trends within CNP.

Key words: Gharial, Gavialis gangeticus, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Corbett National Park (CNP), trail cameras.