Dr. Abi Tamim Vanak

Fellow (Associate Professor), Suri Sehgal Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation
Fellow (Intermediate), Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance Clinical and Public Health Fellowship (www.wellcomedbt.org)

Honarary Research Fellow, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (www.ukzn.ac.za)
Teaching Faculty, M.Sc. Wildlife Biology and Conservation Program, National Centre for Biological Sciences (www.ncbs.res.in)

Email: avanak(at)atree(dot)org

Academic record
2008 - Ph.D. Wildlife Science, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA
1997 - M.Sc. Wildlife Science, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India
1995 - B.Sc. Zoology, Loyola College, Madras University, Chennai, India

Research interests

The conservation of species, landscapes and biodiversity is the central theme that drives my research interests. However, given the increasing lack of natural areas free from human-impact, I focus not just on conservation in natural systems, but also in human-modified and human-dominated landscapes. Much of my work involves the study of mammalian carnivores, and in particular, meso-carnivores. In general, carnivores exist at relatively low numbers and yet can dramatically influence animal and plant communities. Thus, by studying carnivores, we can gain insight into the importance of the individual within natural systems. However, I am by no means restricted to carnivores or even mammals in my research program.

The following are some of my major research themes:

-The role of carnivores in structuring species assemblages

-Human-subsidised carnivores and their interactions with wildlife at multiple levels viz. as predators, competitors and vectors of pathogens

-Disease ecology of carnivores

-Conservation of dry grassland and semi-arid ecosystems in India and their associated faunal elements, in particular the Indian bustard, Indian fox and Indian wolf

-Human-wildlife conflict outside protected areas

-Movement ecology and resource selection of animals

Current projects

Bringing "OneHealth" to rabies research in India: Integrating animal ecology, disease ecology and human health

The Banni grasslands in a time of change: Ecological and socioeconomic resilience in a coupled human-natural system (In collaboration with Dr. Ankila Hiremath)

Landscape mapping and conservation prioritisation of Indian semi-arid savanna grasslands

Research and Monitoring in the Banni LandscapE (RAMBLE)

Movement ecology of mesocarnivores in human-dominated landscapes (In collaboration with Dr. Maria Thaker, CES, IISc.)

Recent publications in the peer reviewed literature (click here for select pdfs, or here Google Scholar and here Researchgate)

Chundawat, R, K. Sharma, N. Gogate, P. K. Malik and A. T. Vanak (2016), Scale mis-match and space use patterns of tigers in a Tropical Dry Forest habitat of India prior to their local extinction. Biological Conservation

Vanak, A.T., A. Kulkarni, A. Gode, C. Sheth and J. Krishnaswamy (2015). Extent and status of semi-arid savanna grasslands in India. In G. S. Rawat and B.S. Adhikari (Eds), Ecology and Management of Grassland Habitats in India, ENVIS, WII, Dehra Dun.

Vanak, A. T., K. K. Karanth, S. Hedges, E. Di Minin, R. Slotow, M. Thaker, K. Shanker, N. Rai, M. J. Tyson, J. Krishnaswamy, U. Ramakrishanan, K. U. Karanth (2014). Potholes in the Global Roadmap – Response to Laurance et al. Nature online commentary http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v513/n7517/full/nature13717.html#co...

Belsare, A.V., Vanak, A.T. and Gompper, M.E. (2014). Epidemiology of viral pathogens of free-ranging dogs and Indian foxes in a human-dominated landscape in central India. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 61 (s1), 78-86.

Vanak, A.T., Belsare, A.V., Uniyal, M., and Ali, R. (2014). Science in the dog house. Current Science 107, 341-343.

Selier, S.A.J., Page B., Vanak, A.T., & Slotow, R. (2014). Sustainability of elephant hunting across international borders in southern Africa: A case study of the greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area. Journal of Wildlife Management 78 (1), 122-132.

Vanak, A. T., Dickman, C.R., Silva-Rodriguez, E. A., Butler, J. R.A., & Ritchie, E. G. (2014). Top-dogs and under-dogs: Competition between dogs and sympatric predators. In Gompper, M. (Ed). Free-ranging dogs and wildlife conservation. Oxford University Press.

Ritchie, E. G., Dickman, C. R., Letnic, M. & Vanak, A. T. (2014). Dogs as predators and trophic regulators. In Gompper, M. (Ed). Free-ranging dogs and wildlife conservation. Oxford University Press.

Vanak, A. T., Fortin, D., Thaker, M., Owen, C, Lehmann, M, Greatwood, S. & Slotow, R. (2013). Moving to stay in place: behavioural mechanisms of co-existence in an African large carnivore guild. Ecology http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/13-0217.1

Punjabi, G. A., Chellam, R. & Vanak, A. T. (2013). Importance of native grassland habitat for den-site selection of Indian foxes in a fragmented landscape . PLoS One 8(10): e76410.

Belsare, A. V. & Vanak, A. T. (2013). Use of xylazine hydrochloride-ketamine hydrochloride for immobilization of Indian fox (Vulpes bengalensis) in field situations. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 44(3), 753-755.

Delsink, A., Vanak, A. T., Ferreira, S. & Slotow, R. (2013) Biologically relevant scales in large mammal management policies. Biological Conservation, 167, 116-127. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2013.07.035

Jorge, A, Vanak, A. T., Thaker, M., Begg, C. And Slotow, R. (2013). Costs and benefits of the presence of leopards to the sport-hunting industry and local communities in Niassa National Reserve, Mozambique. Conservation Biology 27(4), 832-843.

Birkett, P. J., Vanak, A.T., Ferreira, S. & Slotow, R. (2012). Animal perception of seasonal thresholds: Changes in elephant movement in relation to rainfall patterns . PLoSOne 7(6): e38363. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038363

Vanak, A.T., Shannon, G., Thaker, M., Page, B., Grant, R., & Slotow, R. (2012). Biocomplexity in large tree mortality: interactions between elephant, fire and landscape in an African savanna. Ecography DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2011.07213.x

Shannon, G., Thaker, M., Vanak, A.T., Page, B., Grant, R., & Slotow, R. (2011).Relative impacts of elephant and fire on large trees in a savanna ecosystem. Ecosystems 14: 1372-1381. Cover story

Thaker, M., Vanak A.T*., Owen, C, Lehmann, M, Greatwood, S. & Slotow, R. (2011). Minimizing predation risk in a landscape of multiple predators: effects on the spatial distribution of African ungulates. Ecology DOI:10.1890/10-0126.1. *Co-first author

Vanak, A.T. & Gompper, M.E. (2010). Interference competition at the landscape level: the effect of free-ranging dogs on a native meso-carnivore. Journal of Applied Ecology 47: 1225:1232

Vanak, A. T., Thaker, M, & Slotow, R. (2010). Do fences create an edge-effect on the movement patterns of a highly mobile mega-herbivore? Biological Conservation 143: 2631-2637

Thaker, M., Vanak, A.T., Owen, C, Lehmann, M, & Slotow, R. (2010). Group size and herd composition in African ungulates depend on habitat openness and predation risk . PLoSONE 5(9): e12758. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012758

Vanak, A.T. & Gompper, M.E. (2010). Multiscale resource selection and spatial ecology of the Indian fox in a human-dominated dry grassland ecosystem. Journal of Zoology 281: 140-148. Featured Paper: Journal of Zoology podcast - Summer 2010 http://www.wiley.com/bw/podcast/jzo.asp

Thaker, M., Vanak, A.T., Hews, D.K. & Lima, S.L. (2010). Aversive learning of a novel attacker in wild lizards is mediated by corticosterone. American Naturalist 175(1): 50-60

Vanak, A.T. & Gompper, M.E. (2009). Dogs (Canis familiaris) as carnivores: Their role and function in intraguild competition. Mammal Review 39: 265-283 - Included in 2012 Mammal Review Virtual Issue

Vanak, A. T., Thaker, M & Gompper, M. E. (2009). Experimental examination of behavioural interactions between free-ranging wild and domestic canids. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 64:279-287

Vanak, A.T. & Gompper, M.E. (2009). Dietary niche separation between sympatric free-ranging domestic dogs and Indian foxes in central India. Journal of Mammalogy 90: 1058–1065. Cover Story http://www.asmjournals.org/toc/mamm/90/5

Vanak, A.T., Irfan-Ullah, M. & Peterson, T. (2008). Gap analysis of Indian fox conservation using ecological niche modeling. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 105: 49-54

Gompper, M.E. & Vanak, A. T. (2008). Subsidized predators, landscapes of fear, and disarticulated carnivore communities. Animal Conservation 11: 13-14

Vanak, A.T. & Gompper, M.E. (2007). Effectiveness of non-invasive techniques for surveying activity and habitat use of the Indian fox in southern India. Wildlife Biology 13: 219-224

Gompper M.E. & Vanak, A.T. (2006). Vulpes bengalensis. Mammalian Species 795: 1-5

Other publications

Vanak, A. T., Hiremath, A. and Rai, N. (2013). Wastelands of the mind: the identity crisis of India’s savannah grasslands. Current Conservation, 7(3) 17-23.

Vanak, A. T. (2012). Misplaced compassion. Guest post on Reconciliation Ecology Blog http://coyot.es/reconciliationecology/2014/03/23/misplaced-compassion-an...

Vanak, A. T. (2011). Dogs at the edge. Current Conservation, 5(2).

Belsare, A. V. & Vanak, A. T. (2010). The role of canine rabies in Human-Wolf conflict: Preliminary investigations in rural Maharashtra, India. Interim Report submitted to The Indo-Norwegian Project on Resolving Wildlife-Human Conflicts, Bangalore, India

Vanak, A.T. (2008). “A dogged problem”. Down to Earth Magazine, Issue: Aug 31, 2008 http://www.downtoearth.org.in/full6.asp?foldername=20080831&filename=new...

Vanak, A.T., Belsare, A.V. & Gompper, M.E. (2007). Survey of disease prevalence in free-ranging domestic dogs and possible spill-over risk for wildlife - a case study from the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra, India. Final report, Rufford Small Grants Foundation, UK. Pp 1-13

Vanak, A.T. (2007). Interactions between domestic dogs and Indian foxes. Final project report, Maharashtra Forest Department, India

Vanak, A.T. (2003). Preliminary survey of Indian fox (Vulpes bengalensis) distribution in southern India. Final report, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, Bangalore, India

Vanak, A. T., S.P. Vijayakumar, D. Venugopal & V. Kapoor (2001). Inventory of the fauna and flora of the Khandige Estate, Sirumalai hills, Tamil Nadu, India. Consultancy report, Khandige Herbs and Plantations Pvt. Ltd. Chennai, India

Vanak, A.T. & S.P. Goyal (1996). Survey of fruit bats in Namdapha Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Final report, Wildlife Conservation Society, India program, Bangalore, India