Dolls and tigers: an Asian wild dog racing with a big cat in India | predator vs prey

In a video posted early this year that was recently circulated on social media, two prominent carnivores in India – one a huge, burly and world-famous beast and the other smaller, lighter and lesser known – are engaged in a tense confrontation.

The confrontation between the Bengal tiger and the Asian wild dog took place in the Nagarahole National Park in the southwestern state of Karnataka, India, in the foothills of the Western Ghats. The clip shows the large cat briefly stalking the hole along a forest path. Then the tiger advances for a walk on the dog, which borders and rolls around issuing a wild (and hair-raising) chatter and howl.

Holes are medium-sized dogs – larger than jackals and smaller than wolves – with rusty coats and dark tails. Besides the Asian (or Indian) wild dog, they are known by many other common names, including “red dog” and “whistling dog”, the latter referring to the unique set of sounds that members of the vocal group use to keep in touch while following the chital, sambar The wild boars and other quarries through thick forests and woods.

The footage, posted by FiveZero Safaris, was captured by a guide on one of the company’s Black Leopard Safaris, an outing that seeks out light-coloured or black-coated Indian leopards: the adorable and inky “black panthers” made famous by Rudyard’s Bagheera figure. Kipling jungle book.

Kurt Jay Bertels of FiveZero told me that the guide did not believe there were any youngsters in the area during the confrontation, or indeed any young ones, and that the dog was likely only making a general warning call about the presence of the tiger. He wrote: “When it comes to a smaller animal seeing a potentially dangerous animal, it seldom escapes—the theory being that it’s much better to see a predator, because then you know where it is.”

Bulls and tigers are known to collide in the jungles of India.

Wildlife biologist Arjun Srivathsa focuses on dholes for his doctoral research at the University of Florida and is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Canid Specialist Group and the IUCN Dhole Working Group as well as a research associate with the Wildlife Conservation Society – India. He told me he saw pictures of the Nagarahole tiger when it was first posted in January. “My first guess was that the hole was luring the tiger away from the den (with or without young),” he wrote via email. “I’ve seen jackals do this before. But that’s speculation, of course. It seems reasonable because dholes (according to current knowledge) spawn from November to December and pups stay in dens for two to 2.5 months.”

He added, “There’s also a possibility that the hole was only harassing the tiger. I’ve seen videos of doles doing this to sloth bears, leopards and elephants. But I expect the whole group will be involved in such an activity.”

Bulls and tigers have long been portrayed as mortal enemies, with stories abounding of big, striped cats being dragged by huge groups of red dogs – only after large numbers of them were killed in the process. However, much of this is just excitement. While it’s true that tigers will occasionally prey on dholes—in fact, a tiger was seen stalking and killing one herd at Nagarahole in 2017—and that, in turn, would occasionally attack a tiger, these two carnivores likely aren’t eagerly looking for encounters. .

Srivathsa said, “If we consider a fairly stable system – favorable prey densities, medium to high predator densities, average pack size of five to eight slots – our research from the Western Ghats shows that tigers and leopards (and leopards) would use Elaborate mechanisms to avoid each other.”

“It makes sense from a bioenergy perspective not to invest and risk injury or loss of a group member,” he noted.

Field work in the Western Ghats and elsewhere in India indicates some dietary interaction between oxen and tigers as well as leopards, but to what degree depends on the diversity of a particular ecosystem and the density of prey species. Of course, a carnivore may prefer – or be able to exploit – prey that is less attractive or available to others. A study in the Pak Tiger Reserve in northeastern India, for example, suggested that leopards may be less amenable to tigers or oxen to deal with well-armed wild boars, while – unsurprisingly, given the arboreal skills of spotted cats – they are more The ability to hunt monkeys. . Tigers may generally prefer larger mammals (when available) than leopards or leopards, but Srivathsa noted that red dogs’ feeding habits depend in part on the size of their pack, which can include up to 25 individuals.

“A small group of two to three mouths is more likely to go to smaller prey and, at most, a medium-sized spotted deer,” he said. “A big package might drop an adult gaur.”

It is believed that leopards feed on dholes occasionally, meanwhile leopards have often been observed stinging leopards and stealing their prey:

Srivathsa said the small animals, which live mainly in forests, do not interfere as much with the Indian wolf which prefers stinging and pasture, but that these packs of red dogs have been seen to overlook wolves.

Wolves and red dogs – that collide fiercely in Kipling jungle book The stories – not, it seems, always, hostile to each other: In a well-publicized case from 2013, a male wolf has been peacefully associated with a pair of females in the Odisha Wildlife Sanctuary Debrigarh – he travels and seemingly plays with them, joining them to hunt a sambar fawn.

Aside from direct aggressive encounters, worms and other medium to large carnivores affect each other indirectly as well. A study recently published by Srivathsa and colleagues points to the possibility that, in at least some areas, the abundance of both wild prey and sympathetic carnivores may increase the likelihood of livestock being pillaged. The authors wrote that “high levels of competition for high densities of wild prey may force dholes to consume more non-wild prey.”

Dholes are among the relatively few members of the dog clan that follow a diet so dense that they (like cats) are considered “excessive carnivores.” Their short-muzzled skulls reveal a type of specialized tooth: the so-called sharp stub on the lower first molar that extends the cutting surface of the bodily teeth of the aperture. It’s a feature shared by two other lively dogs, the African wild dog – also called the colorful hound – and the jungle dog of Central and South America.

In fact, small dogs and colorful hounds generally show some striking similarities. The two can be considered approximate ecological equivalents on their respective continents. Hounds, like whistling dogs, are highly social hunters who hunt small to medium-sized ungulates. They are also similarly pessimistic and cooperative in keeping an enormous list of competing carnivores: many big cats and hyenas (although lions pose a mortal threat to wild dogs). They even have their own voices to disarm – including tweeting like birds – going on. This tweet is loud and clear in a dramatic video showing a group of hunting dogs attacking a lioness and her cubs:

In fact, a 2018 analysis revealed that puppies and painted hounds share a close genetic affiliation, raising the possibility that the two widely separated species have mixed in some way at some point.

Another thing that Asian and African wild dogs have in common? Painful save image. There is still much we don’t know about dholes, research that has, for a long time, been trivial compared to studies on similarly threatened Asian wildlife such as tigers and elephants. It’s an especially frustrating knowledge gap because hyacinth dogs are so vulnerable: They have disappeared from more than 75 percent of their former range, which historically represented a large swath of Asia — from the Russian Far East and the mountains of Central Asia south to the rainforests of the Malay Peninsula. and the islands of Sumatra and Java. Less than 2,500 dolphins are believed to live in the heavily fragmented remnants of this former range from temperate to tropical.

India, where the dhole has been protected since 1972, is believed to harbor the largest population of red dogs today, but they have nonetheless disappeared from about 60 percent of their formerly wide distribution in the country over the past century. Habitat loss and the decline of wild prey are a large part of this equation; As well as direct killing by people to protect livestock and diseases spread by domestic dogs (including stray).

The Western Ghats – which surround the coast of the Arabian Sea in India along the escarpment of the Deccan Plateau and still host fairly large masses of contiguous forests – are one of the most important remaining crater refuges in India. Srivathsa, who has done a lot of research in the mountains, points out the great value of the protected complex at Nagarahole, Bandipur, Wayanad and Mudumalai here, which “also correlates relatively well with the high-quality reserves in Karnataka and Kerala. Here it forms part of the Meta group, probably to thrive and move between reserves (through a network of unprotected forest corridors and agro-forest matrix landscapes).

Fortunately, research on the Asian wild dog is intensifying – which is just as remarkable and ecologically important in its own right as the “shiny” big cats they are content with. In 2016, for example, Srivathsa launched a collaborative initiative with WCS in India as part of his PhD work: The Dhole Project, which seeks to shed more light on the condition of dholes in the Western Ghats and increase knowledge and awareness in general about species throughout their range.

And as the whistling dog continues to decrease in number and distribution, there she has Recently, there has been some good news on its geographic front: This year, a pair of dholes were confirmed in Vansda National Park in the northern reaches of the Western Ghats in Gujarat, marking the first observation of wild dogs in that Indian state in half a hundred years.

Highlighting dholes as an indicator of ecosystem health, said Dinesh Rabari, Deputy Forestry Conservation Officer for the South Dunges Division. Wiring Science That the species’ return to Vansda “has made us doubly proud, once to have such a wonderful predator and twice to affirm the jungle’s good standing with its existence.”

Top title photo: Tomas Öhberg, Flickr

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