TitleOpportunities for prioritizing and expanding conservation enterprise in India using a guild of carnivores as flagships
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsSrivathsa A, Majgaonkar I, Sharma S, Singh P, Punjabi GA, Chawla MM, Banerjee A
Date Published06/2020

Conservation interventions in developing countries are frequently thwarted by socio-economic agendas, severely limiting the scope and rigor of biodiversity and habitat conservation. Very few ecological assessments incorporate human interests in conservation prioritization, creating asynchrony between planning and implementation. For conservation actions to be logistically feasible, multiple criteria including ecological, social, economic and administrative aspects must be considered. Understanding how these different dimensions interact spatially is also important for gauging the potential for conservation success. Here, we use a guild of select mammalian carnivores (wild canids and hyenas) in India to (i) generate distribution maps at the spatial scale of administrative sub-districts, that are relevant to management, (ii) examine ecological, social and biogeographic factors associated with their distribution, assess key threats, and identify areas important for their conservation, (iii) use prioritization tools for balancing habitat conservation, human needs and economic growth, and (iv) evaluate the spatial congruence between areas with high conservation potential, and areas currently in focus for protection efforts, conservation investments, and infrastructure development. We find that the current Protected Area system does not adequately cover or represent diverse habitats, that there is immense potential for States to increase financial investments towards alternative conservation strategies, and, most infrastructure projects may be potentially jeopardizing important carnivore habitats where the two overlap. Our framework allowed for identifying locations where conservation investments would lead to the highest benefits for carnivores as flagships, which also benefit other species across habitats. We make a case for re-evaluating how large-scale prioritization assessments are made, and for broadening the purview of conservation policies in India and other developing countries.