A new study reveals the impact of leopards on livestock losses and human injuries in a human-use landscape in Maharashtra, India.

The impact of leopards (Panthera pardus) on livestock losses and human injuries in a human-use landscape in Maharashtra, India was undertaken by a team of researchers including Dr. Vidya Athreya (Wildlife Conservation Society-India), Dr. Kavita Isvaran (Centre for Ecological Sciences), Morten Odden (Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences), Dr. John D.C. Linnell (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research), Aritra Kshettry (Wildlife Conservation Society-India), Dr. Jagdish Krishnaswamy (Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & the Environment), and Ullas K. Karanth (Centre for Wildlife Studies). 

It  is the final of a series of papers that emerged from this study site where a combination of methods including interviews, camera trapping and GPS-collaring were used to transform the way we understand leopard ecology in human dominated landscapes. This particular paper looks into the losses that leopards cause to human life and property in Akole taluka of Ahmednagar district, situated in the western part of Maharashtra. At the time of the study, Akole town had a human population of about 20,000, while the average population density of the Ahmednagar district was 266 people/km², and average livestock density of Ahmednagar was 162/km². 

The study found that attacks on humans were not common and livestock losses were much less than one would expect especially considering the complete dependency of leopards on domestic animals as prey. Diseases and natural causes were contributed more to livestock mortality than predation by leopards. The impact of predators was thus, unexpectedly low considering the density of humans, their livestock and leopards in the region. It was also found that ineffective night time livestock protection and the presence of domestic dogs increased the probability of leopard predation on livestock. Given that protection of livestock by humans is very important in reducing losses, proactive measures such as effective livestock sheds would be more effective than reactive measures such as translocation of leopards. 

The authors finally discuss the usage of the word “conflict” and argue that the word be used with a lot of care as it blames the species involved when in reality, livestock losses could occur because we as humans are not focussing on keeping the livestock secure and away from the reach of the predators that share space with humans.

Article link: https://peerj.com/articles/8405/

Media contact: vidya@wcsindia.org

City Today News

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