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What Happens When Humans and Leopards Live Together? Not What You'd Think.

Offbeat  (tags: AnimalWelfare, goodnews, GoodNews, ethics, wildanimals, wildlife, society, humans, unusual, pictures, goodnews )

- 2161 days ago -
Hidden cameras capture the nighttime habits of wild leopards that roam through one town in India.


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JL A (281)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 4:24 pm

What Happens When Humans and Leopards Live Together? Not What Youd Think.
Hidden cameras capture the nighttime habits of wild leopards that roam through one town in India.
By Joanna M. Foster
March 22, 2013
Leopards and humans live alongside each other in Akole, India
Can you imagine this big cat quietly curled up on your porch? (Photo: Aditya Singh/Getty Images)

By day, the western India town of Akole is a bustling farming community, surrounded by millet and sugar cane fields. By night, however, leopards stroll down main street and quietly lick their paws on porches.

It's no secret that there are leopards in town, but now, the big cats' nightlife has been caught on camera, and wildlife experts are marveling at how well leopards and humans are adapting to each other.

Over the course of just one month, 37 hidden cameras around Akole, set up by Vidya Athreya, a researcher with Wildlife Conservation Society-India, snapped 87 pictures of leopards as they went about their after-hours routine.

These leopards weren't just rebellious teens who had run away from sheltering parents in the national parks, either. The cameras caught mothers with cubs and other evidence of a whole well-established leopard community living alongside humans.

Only five percent of land in India is set aside in protected areas, so this proof that even big carnivores can live in human-dominated landscapes is encouraging to conservationists who often feel helpless as they watch natural habitat being destroyed.

I think the important message of this study is to not just discard those areas that have not traditionally been regarded as important for conservation, says Dr. Luke Hunter, President of Panthera, the world's leading wild cat conservation organization. A sugar cane field is not natural leopard habitat, but they can make it work.

Leopards can make it work, but only if people can tolerate leopards the way that leopards are tolerating people. No one can recall an instance where a human was attacked by a leopard in this area, but there is hardly any natural prey left for the big cats, besides some hares and big rodents. Leopards appear to be surviving on ferel dogs and sometimes taking goats and other small livestock.
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It's not like in other places where if people hear that there's a big cat in the area they automatically go out and exterminate it without a second thought, says Dr. Hunter. It's partly thanks to strict laws in India protecting wildlife, but also thanks to the religious and cultural beliefs of this community, which fosters respect and tolerance for leopards, even when they're not great neighbors.

Protected areas will always play a vital role in big cat conservation. The larger species like tigers and lions, for example, just can't survive on the smaller prey that leopards can get by on. They need the wildlife that humans like to replace with livestock, and they potentially pose a serious danger to humans if forced to get too close.

Hopefully though, people can learn to develop land in a way that isn't completely inhospitable to big carnivores. Leaving some natural cover like trees or bushes and letting antelope and the rest of the foundation of the food chain persist, might be the difference between dwindling populations of big cats behind fences in wildlife refuges and leopards throughout India where they belong.
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Do you think peaceful cohabitation between big cats and human beings is a possibility in other parts of the world? Let us know in the Comments.

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Joanna M. Foster writes about the environment and energy for the New York Times, Popular Science and OnEarth Magazine among others. She has traveled extensively in Africa and India and is passionate about conservation and development issues, especially as they are impacted by climate change. she lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, but dreams of Kenya.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 5:04 pm
Nice photos and videos there, action already taken on Cher's post. Those tiger cubs got extremely close to the camera, lol. Thx JL

Tamara Hayes (185)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 5:15 pm
Noted. Interesting article. It gives one hope that maybe humans can be trained. Thanks J.l.

JL A (281)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 5:20 pm
You are welcome Angelika and Tamara. You cannot currently send a star to Angelika because you have done so within the last day.

Sharon W. (4)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 5:41 pm
Thats great! I would like some leopards on my prich too :)

Sharon W. (4)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 5:45 pm
I mean "porch", of course, unless "prich" happens to mean the same...

Kit B (276)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 6:54 pm

I could stare at that photo for hours. For now this seems to be working out, for how long will depend on the leopards food supply. That is one of the big problems in India, just too much sprawl and too little land for natural habitats. We need to think toward the future, build UP and not OUT.

JL A (281)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 7:11 pm
Good observation Kit--slogan could be "Sprawl is out, Tall is in."
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Christeen A (299)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 7:15 pm
This was so interesting. Thank you for sharing.

Sherri G (128)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 7:25 pm
interesting, noted, and signed on Cher's site.

Sandra ;atterson (59)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 8:37 pm
What beautiful creatures they are :) noted,thank you

JL A (281)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 8:45 pm
You are welcome Christeen and Sandra. You cannot currently send a star to Sandra because you have done so within the last day.

S S (0)
Monday March 25, 2013, 4:13 am
Thank you.

cynthia l (207)
Monday March 25, 2013, 5:37 am
Awesome article it gives one Hope

Veronique L (209)
Monday March 25, 2013, 5:38 am

Gloria p (304)
Monday March 25, 2013, 6:04 am
Wild animals need to be protected and I hope it's not too late.

Carmen S (611)
Monday March 25, 2013, 6:34 am
thanks JL, very interesting that they can all coexist,

Sandi C (97)
Monday March 25, 2013, 8:23 am

Kath P (9)
Monday March 25, 2013, 8:45 am
I'm glad to see that so far big cats and humans have been able to make this unfortunate situation work.

Past Member (0)
Monday March 25, 2013, 9:03 am
Its nice to know that there are still some big cats able to wander around without being shot

Noted thanks

. (0)
Monday March 25, 2013, 9:15 am
I had heard about this a number of years ago. What an amazing photo.

JL A (281)
Monday March 25, 2013, 10:07 am
You are welcome Shanti, Carmen, Sandi and Carol.
You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last day.

. (0)
Monday March 25, 2013, 12:21 pm
This is so nice to see, showing it's possible to co-exist ( under the right circumstances) What a beautiful face

Kathryn Niell (112)
Monday March 25, 2013, 12:23 pm
I long for the day when we can learn to live in peace with our animal brothers. They have as much right to live as we do.

Patricia H. (440)
Monday March 25, 2013, 12:54 pm

jennifer t (41)
Monday March 25, 2013, 1:30 pm
Nice pictures

Natalie V (28)
Monday March 25, 2013, 4:08 pm

Theodore Shayne (56)
Monday March 25, 2013, 5:31 pm
Great photo.

JL A (281)
Monday March 25, 2013, 6:41 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Theodore because you have done so within the last day.

Sergio Padilla (65)
Monday March 25, 2013, 9:37 pm
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