Thursday, 14 March 2013

India: Leopards in the Backyard

Mar. 8, 2013 — A new camera-trapping study in India has revealed that leopards can occur at high densities in densely-populated and heavily-modified agricultural environments. Despite the high density of leopards there are no reports of human fatalities in the study area.

The results from this study challenge the popular misperception that large carnivores require wilderness areas to survive. On one hand this greatly expands the area of interface between humans and leopards which will require a proactive approach to dealing with potential conflicts on a large scale. However, on the other hand it opens up many new areas for conservation, greatly increasing the chances of maintaining the connectivity which is so important to maintain viable populations in the long term.
An image of a leopard taken with a camera trap. 
(Credit: Vidya Athreya)

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 coexist with human activities. At least part of this discussion depends on determining to what extent the species can tolerate living in human-dominated landscapes.

In order to investigate this a team of researchers from Norway (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and Norwegian University for Life Sciences) and India (Wildlife Conservation Society -- India) conducted a camera-trapping study around the town of Akole in western India.


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