Living with Leopard Panthera pardus fusca (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae): livestock depredation and community perception in Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, southern Western Ghats

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Bawa Mothilal Krishnakumar
Rajarathinavelu Nagarajan
Kanagaraj Muthamizh selvan


Livestock depredation by large carnivores and retaliatory killings have become worldwide conservation issues.  Leopard depredation of livestock across their range undermines public support for their conservation, resulting in contentious coexistence between the leopard and humans.  Lack of knowledge on the patterns of livestock depredation often hinders the formulation of effective conservation management policies.  We conducted a questionnaire survey on 656 respondents to assess the extent of livestock depredation and their attitudes towards leopards.  Leopard kills included goats (49%) as the main prey, followed by the domestic dog (28%), hen (12%), sheep (5%), cow (4%), and cat (2%).  Our results show that depredation varied significantly across seasons (KW = 30.33, df = 2, P < 0.05); 47% of domestic animals were killed during monsoon, followed by 33% in winter, and 20% in summer.  Leopards killed 49.96% of goats as they grazed, 50% of sheep when tethered at the house, 67% of cows while in the corral, and 59% of dogs while they roamed freely around the house.  Though local people experienced significant levels of livestock losses, about 68% expressed positive attitudes towards leopard conservation.  Positive attitudes were revealed by their awareness about conservation and by moral consciousness towards killing of animals, which is forbidden in their religion.  In the present study site, fodder cultivation and stall feeding would reduce the grazing-related attack.  Similarly, simple changes in the husbandry practices such as closed fence type instead of stockade, effectively reduce enclosure-related depredation. 

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