Coexistence with Leopards

“In India, the tiger faces a crisis of extinction, and the elephant faces a crisis of attrition. But with the leopard, its a crisis of adaptation and we must deal with it that way” – Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Union Environment & Forests Minister.

“The decision to capture the animal should be the last option. If the captured leopard is to be released, it should be in the immediate vicinity of capture, that is, within the animal’s home range” – Union Ministry of Environment and Forest guidelines.

(Source: The Hindu, Chennai Edition, 20.04.2011)

When I was in Coimbatore, there were frequent news reporting of wild elephants roaming from forests to residential areas/ fields and eating/ destroying crops and even huts (mainly in search of food). This issue, of Leopards getting sighted increasingly in human locales in Maharashtra is a different one, but it raises the same question – Can’t humans coexist with their wild counterparts?  Are they encroaching our territory or are we encroaching theirs?

When I visited the H A Gass Forest Museum, there was a poster which said that the conservation parks should not be totally closed because ecological and sociological (economic?) pressures would sooner or latter destroy the species it was intended to protect. So, a reserve should be open and interact with its region, with local people being its guardians.

This point has been proved earlier, when certain Tiger conservation parks resulted in decrease of population of Tigers in them, after the formation of such parks!

So, coming back to the leopard story, if a leopard has been captured in the vicinity of a residential area, it should be released back (a few kilometers) around that area! Thats mainly because leopards have a good homing/territorial instinct and more often than not, locate their territory and come back – Which results in violent encounters with other leopards that have inhibited that area, and also with humans around there. So, these guidelines have been appreciated by the press, as Maharashtra in particular, has followed them to yield successful results.

While we are on the topic of leopards, its good to know certain facts about them (Source: Wikipedia article)

  • Leopards are highly adaptable animals – they are found in both cold regions and warmer regions. But most of the population lies in Africa and Asia.
  • Leopards can climb trees very easily. They in fact kill their prey, and carry them to the top of tree branches in order to protect them from other carnivores/ scavengers.
  • Leopards have very strong skull and backbones which enable them to carry prey weighing even thrice their weight (like a small giraffe) over a tree.
  • Leopards are solitary/territorial animals, and hunt alone. Their biggest strength is their tree climbing abilities, speed and camouflage to the surroundings which enable them to suddenly attack its prey unexpectedly.
  • Leopards can eat bigger prey – like small giraffe, deer etc, and also smaller prey like monkeys, rats, and even insects, if necessary. They can change their dietary pattern based on the surroundings.
  • Leopards can swim and sometimes eat fishes/ crabs etc.
  • The leopard has round spots evenly spread all over its skin. The one that is dark enough that their spots are not visible, is called black panther.
  • Leopard can coexist with their close cousins – Cheetah, but not much with Jaguar. All the three panthera species look very similar.
  • They do not attack humans, unless provoked. But they attack the livestock/dogs etc, that can be found in human vicinity.

If you have time, have a look at the following video where baby leopards play with a King Cobra! Quite gutsy cats, I must say 🙂


 

 

Destination Infinity

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14 Replies to “Coexistence with Leopards”

  1. Yes true we humans need to learn ho to live with the animals, cause its WE who have problems not them … we are the ones going in thee place… if someone enters ur property you have the right to shoot him its called trespassing .. same should be otherwise its there property we are trespassing they have the right to kill us …

    on a funny note did someone ask the Mr. thackrey if its allowed for a leapord to visit mumbai , he may not be maharashtrian..
    Bikram’s

    1. The fact that humans don’t understand is – we cannot live alone on this planet. We depend on so many animals and plants both directly and indirectly for our needs. Too much greed will just fuel more need and more greed – its a cycle!

      Destination Infinity

  2. I am quite sure that it is we who are encroaching on their territory, but I guess the human race is a predatory one! However I feel we in India are still better than other regions in the west where wild animals (the big ones like elephants and tigers and lions) have all but gone. They exist only in the zoos. But our civilisation has now followed their footsteps and soon we will lose most of these beautiful animals unless we do something fast.

    1. I think our ancestors have set a good example here. But sadly, we do not follow their foot steps! Anything western looks glamorous to us now, while even snakes were taken care and considered as Gods by our ancestors!

      Destination Infinity

  3. It was a very informative article…. I did not know the fact about black panthers…… Thanks for sharing….. As the cities are expanding we are encroaching upon the land that belongs to these animals….. Its quite natural that they feel uncomfortable in a man made park….. The video is amazing….. Leopards are as quick as lightening…

    1. Yeah the video was good. If baby leopards have such reflexes, just imagine what the bigger ones might be capable of!

      Destination Infinity

  4. Rajesh,

    I believe I read on rediff.com that Tiger population has increased recently. But I completely agree with your view point.

    But my guess is give another 200 years, we will only have humans….if human race survives that far….no trees will be left either.

  5. Actually there was an article in my school magazine where people (after hundred years) will be living in spacecrafts and spacecraft museums would consists of all extinct species of plants and animals (that includes everything other than humans!). I was shocked to read that because I thought it had a chance to become reality. Hopefully we will avoid such a catastrophe.

    I hope the conservation parks are working for Tigers now – because earlier I read that one of the parks registered a decrease in population!

    Destination Infinity

  6. We are encroaching their area and where can they go, poor animals. I feel very sad while reading reports about tigers and elephants entering the villages.

    Interesting information about the tigers. Thank god, they adapt anywhere for survival.

    Loved the video, D.I.

    1. The video of the leopard kids is too good isn’t it? Such small leopards playing with a fully grown venomous King Cobra! It makes us think, are we too protective with our kids?

      Destination Infinity

  7. you wouldnt believe that I have two female colleagues who actually dislike all sorts of animals and think they should have a planet of their own away from humans. And to top it they are Jains!!

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