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Conservation of large carnivores is challenging as
they face various threats, including habitat loss and fragmentation.
One of the current challenges to tiger Panthera
tigris conservation in India is the conversion of habitat to
uses that are incompatible with conservation of the species.
Bringing more tiger habitat within a protected area system
and in the process creating a network of connected protected
areas will deliver dual benefits of wildlife conservation
and protection of watersheds. Focusing on the
southern Indian state of Karnataka, which holds one of
the largest contiguous tiger populations, we attempted to
address this challenge using a conservation planning technique
that considers ecological, social and political factors.
This approach yielded several conservation successes, including
an expansion of the protected area network by 2,385 sq km, connection of 23 protected areas, and the creation
of three complexes of protected areas, increasing the protected
area network in Karnataka from 3.8 to 5.2% of the
state’s land area. This represents the largest expansion of
protected areas in India since the1970s. Such productive
partnerships between government officials and conservationists
highlight the importance of complementary roles
in conservation planning and implementation.