Tigers under high stress levels induced by tourism, may affect reproduction: study

Sreenivas Janyala
The report suggests that unsustainable wildlife tourism causes distinct physiological stress in tigers in protected areas.

Tigers in Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Sariska are under tremendous stress induced by tourism and this is probably affecting their reproduction, a study by the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has found.

The results of the study, which compared concentrations of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) a marker of stress in inpidual tigers during tourist and off-peak seasons, were published in Conservation Physiology by Principal Scientist Dr G Umapathy s group at CCMB s Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species. The stress levels of tigers during the 8-9 month tourism period were very, very high. During the year-long study, we took fecal samples of the same tigers from the same location and the results were disturbing. Although females are known to undergo more stress, our study shows that males were also under tremendous stress. We could also distinctly correlate the stress levels depending on the number of vehicles entering the tiger reserves, Dr Umapathy said.

Explained

What the study focussed on

The study examines the relationship between anthropogenic disturbances and physiological stress levels in tiger populations in protected areas. The researchers mainly assessed concentrations of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) a stress marker among tigers. The research team collected a total of 341 fecal samples from Bandhavgarh and Kanha reserves during tourist and off-peak seasons, besides data on various anthropogenic disturbances, including tourism activities.

The report suggests that unsustainable wildlife tourism causes distinct physiological stress in tigers in protected areas. One of our previous studies from the same group has shown that recently introduced tigers in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, failed to reproduce effectively presumably due to high levels of stress caused by high anthropogenic disturbance, the report states. It recommends strict regulation of vehicular traffic, and reducing other anthropogenic disturbances.