Big Cats in Backyards

March 28, 2013

In certain urbanized landscapes of western India, leopards and other large carnivores have become routine visitors. But despite their increasing presence in areas devoid of wilderness, most go unnoticed.

As human populations expand and wild lands diminish, wild animals are showing up in unexpected places—and we’re not just talking squirrels. In western Maharashtra, India, though people rarely witness them, leopards and striped hyenas are weaving through backyards, according to new research by WCS and partner organizations.

Sharing quarters with potentially dangerous animals can create conflict, but a new study, “Big Cats in our Backyards,” suggests that large carnivores in western India seem capable of coexisting with human neighbors.

Using camera traps, study authors discovered that leopards routinely range nearby houses during the night. Rusty spotted cats, Indian foxes, jackals, and mongooses have also been captured on film—as have people from the local community.

Remarkably, leopard attacks on humans are rare in the regions WCS photographed despite the fact that leopards have caused human deaths in adjoining areas. WCS big cat expert Ullas Karanth considers this fact significant. He says, “The results of our work push the frontiers of our understanding of the adaptability of both humans and wildlife to each other’s presence.”

The findings also suggest that conservationists must look outside of protected areas for a more holistic approach to safeguarding wildlife.

Read our press release to learn more about this study>>
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