Living with Leopards – Conflict or Coexistence?

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Nayan Khanolkar first chanced upon Luna the leopardess in 2014 while monitoring the man-animal conflict in Mumbai. Back then she was an almost grown up leopard cub roaming in Aarey Colony with her mother. Over the years he and his team have trailed Luna and watched her become an adult, independent leopardess having grown and thrived in an urban landscape. She learnt and understood the human ways enough to manoeuvre around them.

She knew that where humans roamed during the … Read More

Carnivores as Co-owners of our Lands

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Among the range of attributes that represent India is the little-known, seldom-acknowledged diversity of carnivore species it harbors. The country has 23% of the world’s terrestrial carnivore species. While popular discourse typically links large carnivores to forested reserves or large inviolate spaces, many of India’s carnivore species have historically shared spaces and adapted to using human modified landscapes. A recent study by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society-India, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Foundation for Ecological Research And Learning, University of … Read More

Studying Patterns of Human Injuries and Deaths Due to Leopards, Lions and Tigers in Three Countries

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Human-large cat (like lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars) interactions often have an aura around them. Although there are many positive components, conflict between these felines and people dominate popular media and research. Conflict with large cats most often manifest in the form of livestock attacks, retaliatory killing and conflict between different invested stakeholder groups. One extreme and most feared form of conflict is injuries and deaths of people by these cats. Although attacks on people by large cats are rare, the … Read More

Wild Seve — Empowering People and Fostering Tolerance for Wildlife

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India’s Bandipur and Nagarahole National Parks are home to the highest densities of tigers, leopards and elephants globally. People living adjacent to these parks frequently experience crop and property damage, livestock predation and occasionally are injured or killed. As a result, the traditional tolerance that rural communities of India have for wildlife can get eroded due to continued financial losses they incur.

Wild Seve is a novel conservation initiative developed by WCS Scientist Dr. Krithi Karanth in collaboration with the … Read More

When Humans are Curious to Know the Spotted Cat

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Nashik district’s Niphad taluk is situated on the fertile banks of the Godavari River. Agriculture is the main occupation here, with sugarcane the major cash crop, grown along with food crops such as wheat, grapes, jowar and other vegetables. Livestock-rearing also contributes a major part to the local economy. In this productive landscape, where human density is fairly high, jackals, hyenas, jungle cats, civets, and leopards also co-exist, as there is water, prey, and shelter.

Some communities like Warali, Mahadeo … Read More

Engagement with Media Change the Way Human-wildlife Interactions are Reported

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Mass media plays an important role in shaping public perception of human-wildlife interactions. In India, sensational and horrific imagery is often used to portray encounters between the two, even though most of them are neutral.

Media reports on human-leopard interactions are usually focussed on either attacks on people by leopards, or leopards being killed by people. The area in and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, India, is a leopard hotspot, and witnessed many leopard attacks on people in … Read More

Living with Leopards: Making Sense of it for the Media

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“Leopard changes spots, strikes fear” blazed the headline of a leading daily in Dehradun. This, even as we were travelling to the interiors of Uttarakhand, to Tehri and Pauri, to conduct media workshops for sensitizing the “fourth estate”.

The Uttarakhand Forest Department, with support from WCS-India, and Titli Trust, Dehradun, has initiated pilot programs in Tehri and Pauri in Uttarakhand, to mitigate the leopard conflict; one of the most serious human-wildlife conflicts in this pristine hill state. The pilots include … Read More

A Cat Among the Dogs — Leopard Diet in a Human-dominated Landscape

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Large cats are often icons of wilderness. However, like humans, they too are very adaptable, especially a species like the leopard, which has the largest range of any of the large felids; perhaps a testimony to its high degree of adaptability. Most of us view wildlife through the prism of protected areas; researchers study mainly within parks and sanctuaries and therefore our understanding about these animals when they reside in human use areas is poor.

This study carried out in … Read More

Janata Waghoba: A Story of People and Leopards in Rural Maharashtra

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The Northern Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadris, are home to many species of flora and fauna. The area is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world, as well as the origin of important rivers like the Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna, Thamiraparani and Tungabhadra. The part of Maharashtra state which has been flanked by the Ghats on the west is known as Western Maharashtra.

Junnar and Sangamner talukas in Pune and Ahmednagar Districts respectively, which are interspersed with … Read More

Leopards in Crisis — Learnings for Uttarakhand

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Not a month goes by without newspaper reports about the attack by a leopard or a tiger on humans in Uttarakhand, followed by days of reporting of the hunt for the cat, and invariably, ending with the capture or death of the unfortunate animal. In December 2016, the Uttarakhand High Court passed an order that leopards and tigers that have been declared man-eaters should not be killed, but should, instead, be tranquilized and translocated to another forest. While the order … Read More

Large Carnivores in Human Dominated Landscapes

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The conservation of large carnivores like wolves, bears, tigers and lions is always a challenging task in our modern and crowded world. Humans have modified and fragmented habitats and often experience a diversity of conflicts with large predatory neighbours. There is currently a major debate going on among conservationists about how to best go about achieving large carnivore conservation. Alternatives range from a focus on fencing carnivores into protected areas to allowing them to reoccupy shared landscapes where they must … Read More

Human — Leopard Conflict; Lessons from Junnar, Maharashtra

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In many parts of India, leopards live in close proximity to human habitations with surprisingly low levels of conflict.  They are capable of living and breeding even in degraded forests, plantations and croplands, and manage to survive on a variety of small wild prey, domestic dogs, livestock and feral animals. Rural folk in many of these areas are often remarkably tolerant to the presence of these wild and potentially dangerous predators; but the threat to human lives even if rare Read More

Living in Mumbai with Leopards

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This 7-minute video ‘Living with Leopards’ showcases ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ (MfSGNP), a project that was initiated by the Maharashtra Forest Department to manage human-leopard encounters in a novel way. This group engages a variety of stakeholders like scientists, apartment dwellers, tribal colonies, police force and journalists, working with them in tandem to alleviate fear among people. This approach has worked well for both humans and leopards and, since 2013, no leopards have been captured and removed from the area.… Read More

Living with Leopards Outside Protected Areas in India

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This article was first published in The Pioneer on August 11, 2012 with the title ‘Leopards are shy, not aggressive’. It is being reproduced here with permission from the author.

Urban perceptions

Our idea of wildlife often does not match what it really is. Perhaps it stems from the holiday tours to the forests where we go to enjoy the weekend. From our homes in the concrete jungles we check into comfortable, plush resorts in the midst of verdant … Read More

Spotted in the News: Understanding Leopards Through Media Reports

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Print media plays a crucial role in disseminating knowledge and in influencing public opinion. Further, media publications could also provide powerful information about wild animals like leopards and elephants, which frequently interact with people. A study by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society India Program relied on information from ​newspaper media reports to understand leopard ecology, leopard-human interactions, and management practices that deal with problem leopards outside protected areas of Karnataka.

The study used reports of leopards from 11 widely … Read More

Why Captive or Man-Eating Big Cats Should not be Released into the Wild

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Preamble

They say the path to hell is paved with good intentions. That’s certainly true of releasing captive or man-eating big cats into the wild, ostensibly to ‘conserve’ them. In 2015, a wild tiger from Chikmagalur that killed a local woman, and showed no fear of humans, was captured by the Forest Department.  Unfortunately, while initial press reports indicated that it would be transferred to the Bannerghatta zoo, this dangerous animal was instead released into the Bhimgad forest against the Read More

Roads Emerging as a Critical Threat to Leopards in India?

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This article originally appeared in Cat News 60 – Spring 2014 issue.

Leopards (Panthera pardus) face severe threats from poaching, loss of habitat and killing in retaliation to conflict. However, in India a new threat appears to be emerging in the form of vehicle accident mortalities. In the past 60 months 23 leopards have been recorded as killed due to road accidents in the southern Indian state of Karnataka alone. When roads overlap with important wildlife habitats, considerable … Read More

Leopard on a tree

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“There is a Leopard on a tree” –  the call from a friend made me pack my camera bags and drive approximately 75 kms in a hurry. Throughout the journey, I hoped that the leopard would still be on the tree, and fortunately, it was.

We regularly come across stories of human-leopard conflict from this region (South Gujarat – outskirts of Vansda National Park & Poorna Sanctuary). Just four days earlier, a girl was attacked by a leopard in the … Read More

Q: I wanted to bring to your notice the news that a leopard family (mother & 3 cubs) spotted in Karnataka near Kolar (70km east of Bangalore) at Danmatnahalli on 28th Oct 2013 (being tracked for the past 2 days by the forest department). I also want to bring to your notice that the leopards in Kolar district had a peaceful existence before independence and we can read many instances that they existed peacefully with humans in Kenneth Andersson’s writings . So I guess this is a natural occurrence and an opportunity for the forest department to conserve this gene pool of leopards in Kolar. We should try to find a reserve (if translocation is tried) that has deer (natural food for leopards) somewhere in Kolar district, we may consider the forests near Kolar Gold Fields surrounding the Kolar – Bethamangala road and behind BEML Nagar in KGF, where the deer population has increased greatly and has already started to bother the surrounding farmers by raiding their crops, so this is a good solution and this also can be a great thing for the district ecology. I would request CI to help me bring this to the notice of forest officials in Karnataka.

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Answer from Vidya Athreya, carnivore biologist and leopard-human conflict mitigation expert.

As you point out, it is well known by now that a lot of wildlife exists outside protected areas and in human-use landscapes, with leopards being one such adaptable species.

If, as you say, the leopards are already living in human-use landscapes without a problem, why do they need translocation? Also, considerable experience has shown that translocation does not work. When translocated, animals that are territory holders move … Read More

Catalysing Awareness — How Mumbai’s Media Represents its Leopards

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The common leopard (Panthera pardus) is a highly adaptable species that is found throughout the country (and beyond) in a variety of habitats, from the pristine rainforests to human-modified and dominated landscapes. Despite its ability to survive on a wide range of prey species including the wild and the domestic, the leopard population is on a downward spiral owing to intense persecution and pressures of illegal wildlife trade.

Authors Saloni Bhatia, Vidya Athreya, Richard Grenyer and … Read More

Wild Leopard Rescued From South Delhi in Major Operation

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In a dramatic seven hour long rescue operation by NGOs Wildlife SOS and Friendicoes SECA with the cooperation of the Delhi Police and the Fire Department, a grievously injured adult leopard was rescued from South Delhi’s chattarpur area.

The wild leopard possibly from the Aravalli hills was spotted leaping onto a high wall of a farm house in Chattarpur DLF farms by a local guard. The leopard in an attempt to scale the 15 foot wall got impaled on the … Read More

TRAFFIC’s latest study “Illuminating the Blind Spot”: A study on illegal trade in Leopard parts in India

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New Delhi, India, 28th September 2012 — At least four Leopards have been poached and their body parts entered into illegal wildlife trade every week for at least 10 years in India, according to TRAFFIC’s latest study “Illuminating the Blind Spot: A study on illegal trade in Leopard parts in India” launched today by Dr Divyabhanusinh Chavda, President, WWF-India.

The study documents a total of 420 seizures of Leopard skins, bones and other body parts reported from 209 localities in … Read More

Leopard in a Tea Estate, Nilgiris

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This leopard was photographed in a tea estate, near Kothagiri in the Nilgiris. I have also seen this leopard atop a rock, watching people below plucking tea leaves. So far there have been no reports of a conflict. Thus, at the moment, the leopard lives in harmony with the people in the area.

Editor’s note:  Leopards in India are often found in human-dominated landscapes. Here is another image of a leopard outside a protected area. For insights into … Read More

Leopard Outside Protected Areas

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We all know that unlike tigers, leopards are not strictly confined to national parks wildlife sanctuaries. This leopard (do you see the two little cubs!) was photographed near Jayapura Village, H D Kote Road. Because of rapid expansion of urban areas, we constantly hear of leopard captures in towns and even cities. In Mysore city alone, during the last few months, three leopards were captured:

Chamundi Hills: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/217901/leopard-trapped-chamundi-hills.html
N R Mohala, Mysore: http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/karnataka/article3003671.ece
Bellikere, Mysore: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/article2852542.eceRead More

Human – Leopard Conflict, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

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A leopard was captured in a village from Bauli Tehsil of Sawai Madhopur District and released in Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary, 40 km away from the leopard’s territory. The leopard was just spotted by villagers and summoned the forest department to remove it. After 3 days, the leopard found its way back to its homerange as typically happens. On the way back, it encountered villagers and accidentally injured a child. A chaos ensued, and during the (second) forest department rescue operation, … Read More