We just published the paper “Spatial variation in the response of tiger gene flow to landscape features and limiting factors” in Animal Conservation, available here.
With this paper we were interested in how landscape features affect tiger’s gene flow. What we observed was that the tiger is an amazing animal, not much bothered by obstacles – in rural landscapes or in reserves. But human disturbance, even diffuse, is always a problem. Our paper highlights that tiger preference for dispersal vary depending upon human occupation history. In central India, tigers prefer to disperse along ridges (untouched by agriculture), whereas in southern India, tigers are comfortable in valleys because the main national parks (Bandipur, for example) were set long time ago, on a plain adjoining the Western Ghats.
When I was working on the paper, this difference between central India and southern India bothered me and I could not explain why it should be different. However, a couple of tigers came to mate near the river 200 m from the house. I had THE experts right in front of my nose to confirm that tigers were meeting on flat grounds (the most comfortable for heavy animals to move around). The irreplaceable experience that comes from the field provided the evidence that there was no error in our methods.
As a rule of thumb, tigers can cross human-dominated landscapes as long as no permanent closure (city, highway, etc.) exists. But corridor design and location may depend on regional history, a fact that was unknown earlier.