BENGALURU: New scientific studies reveal that there is a need to maintain a balance between the leopard and its wildlife prey population. Otherwise, people living in wildlife landscapes may suffer financial losses. Research has established that nearly 90 per cent of leopard diet was composed of primates or wild ungulate herbivores while non-wild prey including cattle and free-ranging dogs accounted for less than 3 per cent.
Scientists from the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) and the University of Florida studied various factors that enable and restrain the co-occurrence of people and big cats in shared landscapes. And they say this new understanding of carnivore ecology and recognising the benefits that leopard presence offers, could help in managing their populations and helping people to live peacefully on forest fringes.
The patterns and drivers of leopard occurrence and livestock/human attacks were determined by conservation ecologists Mahi Puri, Arjun Srivathsa, Krithi Karanth, Imran Patel and N Samba Kumar which was published in the international journal ‘Ecological Indicators’. Mahi Puri, the lead author of this paper, says, “Our study provides evidence for maintaining forest cover and prey- abundance as crucial to ensuring leopard persistence in the landscape. An important management implication is that an imbalance caused by the decline in either leopard or wild prey populations could result in an increase in crop loss (to wild herbivores) or livestock depredation (by leopards) respectively, ensuing financial losses to local residents.”
Krithi Karanth, Chief Conservation Scientist, CWS, adds, “Leopards’ co-occurrence amongst people is well known, but they are increasingly being persecuted in rural and urban areas. An informed understanding of carnivore ecology offers in human-dominated landscapes could help in managing their populations and in facilitating coexistence
Researchers evaluated the role of wild prey in leopard diet and the extent to which prey offset leopard attacks on domestic livestock.