Washington: A new first-of-its-kind GPS-collar study has recently revealed how leopards in India live with people.
The study concluded that leopards in human areas are not always "stray" or "conflict" animals but residents, potentially requiring policy makers to rethink India's leopard-management strategies.
Five leopards (two males and three females) perceived as "problem animals" and captured from human-dominated areas despite no predatory attack on people, were radio-collared for the study. Two were translocated and released more than 50 km (31 miles) away, while the remaining three were released near the site of capture.
Vidya Athreya of WCS India said that this indicated futility of translocation as a management strategy; this could have in fact, aggravated the conflict, as these animals passed through highly-human dominated (even industrial) areas.
However, the animals applied tactics to avoid encountering people, despite dependence on their resources.
Despite living in close proximity to humans and even being dependent on their resources, none of the leopards were involved in human deaths during capture or following release.
The authors stress that the presence of wild carnivores like leopards in human use landscapes in India need to be dealt with proactive mitigation measures.
The authors stated there is a need for more studies on ecology of wildlife that share space with humans in India, so that better understanding can feed into better policy.
Efforts should be put into preventing losses to people rather than react after losses have been incurred. The management policy should also work towards retaining the acceptance and tolerance of the local people.
The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.