Habitat use of tigers and leopards, and habitat connectivity in the Bandhavgarh-Sanjay Corridor

Maintaining habitats amidst a mosaic multiple-use landscape connecting the protected areas is important to maintain ecosystem balance as well as viable and genetically diverse populations. We determined habitat use for tigers and leopards as flagship large carnivore species in 4,753 sq km area connecting Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Sanjay Tiger Reserve, and Guru Ghasidas National Park, three important protected areas in north-eastern part of central India with an estimated population of 132 tigers. The probability of habitat use for tigers and leopards in this corridor is 0.96 ±0.08 (95%CI 0.24-0.99) and 0.93 ±0. 11 (95%CI 0.26-0.99), respectively. The two major factors positively influencing tiger and leopard habitat use in the corridor are forest cover and wild prey presence. With an average density of 143.33 persons per sq km compared to the average density of 212.5 per sq km of three districts comprising major area of the corridor, it comprises 23% of the total forest cover of the three districts of Shahdol, Umaria, and Koriya, spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In this report, also spatially assess and map six major issues in the corridor; human-wildlife conflict, wildlife crime, forest fire, land-use change, infrastructure development and existing extractive industries. This report provides insights to prioritize connectivity conservation by identifying areas where wildlife may face disproportionately high risks, or where landscape permeability is most compromised.