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Now, Karnataka an abode to 2,500 leopards, reveals study

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Bengaluru, Sep 28: There are nearly 2,500 leopards in Karnataka as per the first-ever scientific estimation of leopards in the country.

The study was done in Cauvery, MM Hills, BRT and Timalapura wildlife sanctuaries, Jayamangali Conservation Reserve and various areas in Tumakuru, Ramanagara, Mysuru, Bengaluru Urban and Rural, Bhadravati, Ballari and Chitradurga divisions.

leopard

Led by conservation biologist Sanjay Gubbi, and a team from Nature Conservation Foundation, the study was in vogue since 2012 in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department.

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The team has presented to the forest department a documentation of 363 leopards. Based on the figures derived using camera trapping, it has been estimated that there are a total of 2,500 leopards in the State.

It said through a sampling-based camera trap exercise, individual leopards were identified using the rosette patterns on their bodies that are unique to each animal.

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Individual leopards were identified using the rosette patterns on their body which are unique to each individual leopard. Later, using statistical methodologies, researchers estimated both density and abundance.

Based on these results, a few regions having high density population of leopards are likely to be notified as wildlife sanctuaries. They include Bhadravati division (Kukwadi-Ubrani, Hadikere, Hanne, Rangainagiri and others) and Bukkapatna (Bukkapatna, Muttugadahalli, Suvarnavathi, and other areas) in Tumakuru division.

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This has been an important achievement of the study in addition to this first-ever work on leopards in the state. This is one of the most comprehensive studies on leopards in the country that combines science, applied conservation, and outreach.

Leopard-human conflict a greater challenge

Leopards in Karnataka are the latest to step into the man- animal conflict zone. They are distributed over 84,000 square km of area in Karnataka outside the designated national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

Human-animal conflicts are going to escalate as we eat into more and more forested habitats. With little or no healthy, viable, prey available to them, the big cats will venture out to seek food.

Leopards are often caught and killed in traps laid by local poachers. Some fall victim to speeding trains, others are run over by fast-moving vehicles and some are beaten to pulp by mobs armed with sticks, stones and even kerosene, used to burn leopards, wolves, bears or any other animal the mob stumbles upon.

Increases in livestock and a decrease in natural habitat have inevitably resulted in livestock predation by leopards, and subsequent retaliation by herders.

Conflict killings and the trade in big cat parts go hand in hand; the bones and pelts of leopards killed primarily due to retaliation for livestock losses also enter illegal trade.

Since leopards prefer sugarcane field as shelter due to its density the leopard threat is likely to continue as sugarcane farming is not going to stop in the area or the leopards are not going to leave the fields.

Many female leopards have delivered cubs in sugarcane fields in past couple of years. Those born and brought up in sugarcane fields will stay and breed in the farms.

According to a recent survey 245 cases of human-leopard conflicts in Karnataka's 175 sub-districts were reported. There were 32 instances of attacks on humans, including three mortalities, and the capture and translocation of 56 leopards (91 per cent of them were in response to attacks on livestock or based on sightings) were also documented," the report says.

Environmentalists believe that the human-leopard conflict in the region may get worse in the coming days.

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