A new study led by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India scientist Vidya Athreaya finds that certain landscapes of western India completely devoid of wilderness and with high human populations are crawling with a different kind of backyard wildlife: leopards.
The study found as many as five adult large carnivores, including leopards and striped hyenas, per 100 square kilometers (38 square miles), a density never before reported in a urbanised landscape. The WCS-led study, called “Big Cats in Our Backyards,” appeared in the March 6 edition of the journal PLOS ONE.
Camera trap photos show leopards, hyenas — and lots of people
Using camera traps, the authors founds that leopards often ranged close to houses at night though remained largely undetected by the public. Despite this close proximity between leopards and people, there are few instances of attacks in this region. The authors also photographed rusty spotted cat, small Indian civet, Indian fox, jungle cat, jackal, mongoose — and a variety of people from the local communities. The research took place in western Maharashtra, India.
“Human attacks by leopards were rare despite a potentially volatile situation considering that the leopard has been involved in serious conflict, including human deaths in adjoining areas,” said big cat expert Ullas Karanth of WCS.
The authors say that the findings show that conservationists must look outside of protected areas for a more holistic approach to safeguarding wildlife in a variety of landscapes.
(Source: WCS Press Release, 28.03.2013)