Gibbons in the canopy: linking movement behaviour and models for conservation

Vasudev, D. & Fletcher, R. J. (2015) Incorporating movement behavior into conservation prioritization in fragmented landscapes: an example of western hoolock gibbons in Garo Hills, India. Biological Conservation, 181, 124-132.  

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.11.021

Like many animals today, gibbons — an animal of the high canopies, if ever there was one — need to move from forest to forest, linking families and lineages, to ensure their persistence into the future. But moving through land-uses that no longer have sky-scraping closed-canopy trees is a problem for gibbons. So some forests they can access, but some they cannot. Some forests, in fact are perfectly placed, such that they form neat links across entire landscapes! 

 

So authors set out to identify these key forests, using scientific observations obtained from following gibbons groups day after day; and linking these data to models that simulate landscape-scale animal movement. We did this in a landscape of community-managed forests in Garo Hills, Meghalaya, Northeast India.  

We still do not fully understand how animals make decisions to move across complex, changing landscapes. But using what information we have, to feed into models of animal movement, can get us closer to conserving them effectively.  

Photo: A male western hoolock gibbon up in the canopy. © Varun R. Goswami

 
 

Facilitating connectivity while mitigating conflict for wildlife species: a must for successful landscape-scale conservation

Goswami, V. R. & Vasudev, D. (2017, invited article) Triage of conservation needs: the juxtaposition of conflict mitigation and connectivity considerations in heterogeneous, human-dominated landscapes. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 4, 144.

https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2016.00144

Wide-ranging animals like the elephant require large swathes of land to survive. This brings them in contact with people in the densely-populated world they persist in. Sometimes, it brings them in conflict with people. Conflict-mitigation has therefore become a core part of most conservation programs. 

But how to we mitigate conflict? We could either choose methods that don't block animal movement paths, or default to those that obstruct animal movement, and hence cut their connectivity across landscapes. The latter approach, unfortunately widely used, is to the detriment of conservation, and ultimately, will never effectively mitigate conflict. Studies on conflict mitigation methods, further, only rarely take into account species needs to range widely. 

Ultimately, if we want to achieve long-term conservation of species, we need to effectively mitigate conflict, while facilitating connectivity, or allowing their movement across landscapes. 

Photo: Elephants using tea estates for movement. ©  Bhavendu Joshi

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