Habitat Characterization of Western Tragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus), Great Himalayan National Park, India
Suneet Naithani, VB Mathur, C Jeganathan
The T. melanocephalus is one among the poorly studied threatened pheasant of the world. It is endemic to North Western Himalaya with a narrow range from Hazara in north Pakistan through Jammu & Kashmir to Garhwal in India. The study was a part of multidisciplinary research project undertaken in the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (GHNPCA), Himachal Pradesh, India as GHNPCA is one of the two national parks in the world that supports a substantial population of T. melanocephalus and their population is on the decline. The Study area is highly undulating and very difficult to cover by ground, and hence, Remote Sensing and GIS based modeling study was taken up to understand and predict the spatial occurrence pattern of this species in GHNPCA for preparing better conservation plan. Satellite data were used to prepare land use and land cover map about the study area. Ground based survey was conducted to do sighting and inventory. Based on sighting data the spatial parameters like altitude, slope, aspect, and distance from human interference, interspersion, and juxtaposition were analyzed for extracting carrying capacity of individual classes. The integrated evidence based class weights were derived from these individual carrying capacity values and in combination with expert’s importance weights the final habitat suitability map was derived. This model is based on the occurrence of the species during the non-winter majority of the time period. The study revealed that only 10.44% of the area is highly suitable and which is spread over the western part of the study region. The species moves to completely different places during winter and this dynamism need to be taken into account in future studies to arrive at definite conclusions about their spatial occurrence pattern.