Encroachment by livestock in a wildlife sanctuary in Southern India
Dietary niche reconstruction of wild and domestic herbivores using DNA metabarcoding.
Young Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata) in Karnataka, India. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The impact of livestock on wild herbivores is a global conservation concern. India has the world's second largest livestock population, which is grazing many of India's wildlife reserves. This is a major cause for concern as livestock has competitive advantage over the local wildlife and provides a threat to the local biodiversity. Despite these concerns, surprisingly little is known about the diet of these herbivores and where the potential for competition lies.
Within this project we are reconstructing the diet of herbivores living in wildlife sanctuary Male Mahadeswara Hills to inform conservation management in this area. It is a known tiger territory and elephant corridor and is home to, among others, bonnet macaques, wild boars, sambar deer, barking deer, and porcupines. Recent advances in DNA metabarcoding of degraded material allows us to apply it here to faecal samples, as a non-invasive method for determining dietary niche partitioning.
We are collaborating closely with the PET-group at the Natural History Museum, Bhavani Shankar and Gudasalamani Ravikanth of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment in Bangalore, and Rajindra Puri of the Centre for Biocultural Diversity at the University of Kent.