Analyzing tiger interaction and home range shifts using a time-geographic approach

By 7th February 2024Conservation Papers

Interaction through movement can be used as a marker to understand and model interspecific and intraspecific species dynamics, and the collective behavior of animals sharing the same space. This research leverages the time-geography framework, commonly used in human movement research, to explore the dynamic patterns of interaction between Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbeti) in the western forest complex (WEFCOM) in Thailand.

We propose and assess ORTEGA, a time-geographic interaction analysis method, to trace spatio-temporal interactions patterns and home range shifts among tigers. Using unique GPS tracking data of tigers in WEFCOM collected over multiple years, concurrent and delayed interaction patterns of tigers are investigated. The outcomes are compared for intraspecific tiger interaction across different genders, relationships, and life stages. Additionally, the performance of ORTEGA is compared to a commonly used proximity-based approach.

Among the 67 tracked tigers, 42 show concurrent interactions at shared boundaries. Further investigation of five tigers with overlapping home ranges (two adult females, a male, and two young male tigers) suggests that the mother tiger and her two young mostly stay together before their dispersal but interact less post-dispersal. The male tiger increases encounters with the mother tiger while her young shift their home ranges. On another timeline, the neighbor female tiger mostly avoids the mother tiger. Through these home range dynamics and interaction patterns, we identify four types of interaction among these tigers: following, encounter, latency, and avoidance. Compared to the proximity-based approach, ORTEGA demonstrates better detects concurrent mother–young interactions during pre-dispersal, while the proximity-based approach misses many interactions among the dyads. With larger spatial buffers and temporal windows, the proximity-based approach detects more encounters but may overestimate the duration of interaction.

This research demonstrates the applicability and merits of ORTEGA as a time-geographic based approach to animal movement interaction analysis. We show time geography can develop valuable, data-driven insights about animal behavior and interactions. ORTEGA effectively traces frequent encounters and temporally delayed interactions between animals, without relying on specific spatial and temporal buffers. Future research should integrate contextual and behavioral information to better identify and characterize the nature of species interaction.

Liu, Y., Dodge, S., Simcharoen, A. et al. Analyzing tiger interaction and home range shifts using a time-geographic approach. Mov Ecol 12, 13 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40462-024-00454-0

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