Big cats have found cultural representation across their natural ranges. These representations are manifested in the form of art, kinship relations, taboos and even worship. This can be seen with regard to the Were-jaguars that are an intrinsic part of various Mesoamerican cultures as well as the cat deities famously worshiped by Egyptians. Closer to home, the Warlis, an indigenous community in Maharashtra, also worship a big cat deity; Waghoba. The Warli have a long history of sharing space … Read More
Human-leopard Interactions in Rajasthan
Understanding the ecology of large carnivores and their interactions with people across large areas such as landscapes, regions, or entire states, is extremely important yet logistically infeasible. Newspaper reports that regularly document information about wild animals (like bears, leopards, and elephants) that frequently interact with people can be useful sources of information to undertake research on human-wildlife interactions. In a new study, scientists from the Forest Research Institute (Dehradun), Wildlife Conservation Society–India (Bangalore) and the University of Florida (USA) used … Read More
Living with Leopards – Conflict or Coexistence?
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
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
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
When Humans are Curious to Know the Spotted Cat
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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