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Decoded: Patterns of lion, tiger and leopard attacks on humans

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Incidences of attacks on humans vary with each cat species, the area and duration of these being more in the case of lions, as compared to tigers or leopards.

Decoded: Patterns of lion, tiger and leopard attacks on humans

Lions live in prides of large numbers, with risky behavior picked up by the group members, causing larger area and time over which human injuries and deaths prevail. On the other hand, leopards and tigers are solitary species with only mother-to-cub learning anecdotally documented. This might explain why the leopard and tiger outbreaks are smaller in dimension.

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology revealed that lion and tiger attacks were disproportionately located in residential woodlands habitat with 10-100 people per sq km, and lions also attacked more people in areas with recent loss of tree cover.

This study was done across three countries (India, Nepal, Tanzania) and five locations (Southern Tanzania, Pune district, Himachal Pradesh state, Maharashtra state, Chitwan National Park).

The spread of attacks by lions on humans in Tanzania, resulting in injuries or deaths, was greater in area and lasted for a longer time than those by tigers in Maharashtra and Nepal, and leopards in Pune and Himachal Pradesh. The incidences occurred mostly in residential world land habitat in the case of lions, and in rain-fed croplands in the case of tigers and leopards.

Time and space

The tiger attacks were studied in India and Nepal - 94 attacks over an area of 2,400 sq km in Maharashtra between 2005 and 2010; and 88 in 2,300 sq km around the Chitwan National Park in Nepal between 1979 and 2006.

"Our analysis reveals the typical spatiotemporal patterns of past lion, leopard, and tiger attacks on humans. In future, this technique could be used by relevant agencies to warn local people of risks from further attacks within a certain time and distance following an initial incident by each species", the study stated, adding that the approach can also help identify areas requiring management interventions to address such threats.

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