A recent study cataloging the first -ever GPS collared leopards in India revealed that a leopard spotted near a human settlement, first through to be a stray, may not have been lost after all.
Vidya Athreya and her team of biologists from the Wildlife Conservation Society collared five of the predatory cats, and surprisingly discovered that the animals stayed rather close to homes and human settlements. This is a very interesting find as it helps explain the numerous man-leopard encounters that have been happening in Mumbai, most of which have taken place at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli.
A report from Hindustan Times states that, while leopards are instantly portrayed as strays when found in a human settlement, this may be a common misconception. Unlike tigers, Leopards have the ability to coexist among human populations similar to bulls and hyenas. While two of the five collared leopards were relocated some 50 kilometers away from the area they were found, the other three were re-released near their original location. They were then monitored for a year. During that time, not only did they not attack any humans, but they actually actively tried to avoid contact.
This new information could alter the way that India handles leopard management as a whole. Up to now, the solution has been to translocate the animals, but this is undesirable as it could lead to conflict. Instead, the study shows that, since leopards know how to stay out of the way of humans, humans could avoid problems by learning how to keep the animals away. This could be done by creating awareness through teaching people about the animals as well as explaining the different do’s and don’ts of coexisting with such creatures.