Saturday, October 10, 2015

We need to study leopards outside their habitat: Expert

BENGALURU: "There is an urgent need to conduct scientific studies on the behaviour and distribution of leopards and elephants outside protected areas to gain a better understanding of conflict situations. Most studies today focus only on forest areas while an increasing number of wild animals is found outside." This was one of the suggestions made by wildlife conservationist Dr Vidya Athreya at a workshop on Friday.

Vidya, senior research fellow, Wildlife Conservation Society, has been studying leopards for years. Big cats are always in the news and often for the wrong reasons, she observed. "In India, carnivores like leopards have a larger prey base outside forests - cattle, goat or sheep. Leopards are the most adaptable big cats found in a variety of habitats; this is why we hear about them everywhere. Through radio collaring, we have found they are capable of living among a high density of people. They often prey on dogs," she explained.

Commenting on the need for a greater understanding of conflict cases, Vidya said traditional methods of fencing protected areas should be relooked. "Wild animals don't follow man-made boundaries, they will go wherever there are resources for them," she added.

Dr Prithiviraj Fernando, an elephant expert from Sri Lanka, said 70% of the jumbos in the island nation lives outside protected areas and the government should involve communities to deal with conflict situations. "Conflict between humans and elephants arises because of planned and unplanned development without no appropriate safeguards in place. Fencing of villages is only a short-term measure. Land-use planning should be done based on human development and elephant needs," he pointed out. 


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