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Spatial differences in prey preference by tigers across the Bangladesh Sundarbans reveal a need for bespoke strategies to protect prey populations

Md. Abdul Aziz*, Md. Anwarul Islam, Jim Groombridge

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Sundarbans is the only mangrove habitat in the world to support tigers Panthera tigris whose persistence there is believed to be dependent on a very limited number of prey species. Conservation managers therefore need to understand how tigers utilise available prey species on a spatial scale in order to formulate a prey-based protection strategy for this global priority tiger landscape. A total of 512 scat samples were collected via a survey of 1984 km2 of forest across 4 sample blocks in the 6017 km2 of the Bangladesh Sundarbans. Analysis of scat composition and prey remains reliably identified 5 major prey species, of which spotted deer Axis axis and wild pig Sus scrofa contribute a cumulative biomass of 71% to tiger diet. Tiger preference for these prey species was highly skewed towards spotted deer and wild pig but the relative contribution of these 2 species to tiger diet differed significantly across the 4 study areas which spanned the Sundarbans, demonstrating important spatial patterns of tiger prey preference across the Sundarbans landscape. Given the comparatively limited number of prey species available to support the dwindling tiger population here, different strategies are needed in different parts of the Sundarbans to support tiger populations and to protect spotted deer and wild pig populations from unabated poaching.