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Big Cats in back­yards of West­ern Indian households

pub­lished 31 March 2013 | mod­i­fied 08 March 2014

Ahmednagar District IndiaA 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 results of our work push the fron­tiers of our under­stand­ing of the adapt­abil­ity of both humans and wildlife to each other’s presence.
« Ullas Karanth, WCS Big Cat expert

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.

The Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety saves wildlife and wild places world­wide. We do so through sci­ence, global con­ser­va­tion, edu­ca­tion and the man­age­ment of the world’s largest sys­tem of urban wildlife parks, led by the flag­ship Bronx Zoo. Together these activ­i­ties change atti­tudes towards nature and help peo­ple imag­ine wildlife and humans liv­ing in har­mony. WCS is com­mit­ted to this mis­sion because it is essen­tial to the integrity of life on Earth.

(Source: WCS Press Release, 28.03.2013)

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