Modelling spatial distribution of critically endangered Asian elephant and Hoolock gibbon in Bangladesh forest ecosystems under a changing climate
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and Hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) are two globally endangered wildlife species limited to only tropical Asian forests. In Bangladesh both species are critically endangered and distributed mainly in the northeast and southeast hilly regions bordering neighboring India and Myanmar. Using existing distribution data, land-use/land cover, elevation and bio-climatic variables, we modeled the likely distribution of Asian elephant and Hoolock gibbon in Bangladesh for 2050 and 2070. We used the IPCC’s Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) – RCP6.0 and RCP8.5 and Maximum Entropy algorithm for our modelling. Our study indicated that the Asian elephant will be more resilient to climate change compared with the Hoolock gibbon. Habitat loss for the Asian elephant is also expected to remain constant (i.e. 38%) throughout the period, whilst Hoolock gibbon habitat will be more sensitive to climatic variations, with the species predicted to be extirpated from the country by 2070. Being highly exposed to climate change with ever increasing land use pressures, we believe our study in Bangladesh can be used to enhance our understanding of future vulnerabilities of wildlife in a rapidly changing climate. A trans-boundary conservation program with greater attention to the species that are less resilient to climate change is also essential.