Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (9): 22271.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022271

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Competition and coexistence between tigers and leopards in Asia

Zhilin Li1, Tianming Wang2,3,4,*()   

  1. 1. Tianjin Key Laboratory of Conservation and Utilization of Animal Diversity, College of Life Sciences, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300387
    2. Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Engineering, Beijing 100875
    3. National Forestry and Grassland Administration Key Laboratory for Conservation Ecology in the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park, Beijing 100875
    4. College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875
  • Received:2022-05-17 Accepted:2022-08-18 Online:2022-09-20 Published:2022-09-21
  • Contact: Tianming Wang


Background & Aim: As apex carnivores, tigers (Panthera tigris) and leopards (P. pardus) play critical roles in maintaining the structural and functional stability of Asian forest ecosystems. The populations and ranges of these two felids have declined due to human disturbance. To mitigate anthropogenic threats to endangered species in these ecosystems, it is essential that we understand how tigers and leopards interact. Although competition between tigers and leopards has been studied for several decades, most studies have taken place in the famous reserves like Nagarahole National Park and Chitwan National Park in South Asia, so it is unknown how their interactions differ elsewhere in their overlapping range. Here, we review 36 previous papers on competitive interactions between the two big cats from 1976 to 2021. We summarize the nature of both interference and exploitation competition between tigers and leopards in their current overlapping range, as well as how prey and human disturbance shapes this competition.
Review Results: We found that the most important factors affecting tiger-leopard competition and coexistence included species richness at various size classes of prey and also the spatial distribution of human disturbance. Local habitat, prey composition, and disturbance factors affect tiger-leopard interactions by shaping the trade-off between ecological opportunities (e.g., easy prey) and the risk of escalating conflict with humans and other competitors across spatial, temporal, and dietary niches.
Perspectives: There is currently a significant regional bias in the study of tiger-leopard competition and coexistence, with most research focusing on the overlapping range in South Asia and neglecting these in Northeast and Southeast Asia. To more fully understand how tigers and leopards interact, future research should occur longitudinally throughout their shared range, with a focus on multiple ecological niches and fine spatial scales. Research on the biotic and abiotic factors affecting tiger-leopard competition should aim to identify their ecological thresholds and the regulation mechanisms by which these factors affect the intensity and types of competition.

Key words: tiger, leopard, carnivore, interspecific interactions, competition, ecological niche