The Bengal tiger depends on large tracts of forest habitat and abundant ungulate prey populations for its survival. Forest cover and ungulate populations have been rapidly lost across its former range, which includes most of Southern and Southeast Asia. In addition, increased poaching pressure has resulted in catastrophic population declines even in areas where remaining habitat exists. The survival of this species requires improved knowledge of the factors that drive local population size and connectivity across the landscape between sub-populations. This research provided the first genetic-based predictions of local population size and gene flow. Population size is most related to the extent of protected areas and forest cover in a landscape, while gene flow is driven primarily by topographical linkages provided by rocky ridges with low human footprint that connect sub-populations. This information provides critical guidance to conservation and management efforts across the species’ range.
Tiger local population size is driven by the extent of protected areas and forest cover in the landscape.
Tiger gene flow and population connectivity are driven by topographical features that provide low risk and low human footprint linkages between study areas, such as rocky ridgelines.