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Carnivore Conflict
Published by Vidya Athreya, Aniruddha Belsare, 12 Jan 2006
An Occasional Report based on two Wildlife Trust of India Rapid Action Projects supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and conducted by the Kaati Trust. This report documents the technical and veterinary support provided to the Maharashtra Forest Department during the capture and translocation of leopards from conflict areas. It recommends science-based action keeping in mind the ecology of the species.
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Man–animal conflict is the biggest threat that faces some of our wildlife species today–and none exemplifies this more than the leopard. This adaptive carnivore is equally at home in the deciduous tendu forests of central India, the alluvial floodplains of the Ganges and the sugarcane fields of Maharashtra. It can tolerate human presence, arguably more than any carnivore in the country. This brings it into direct contact with livestock, many of which resemble its natural prey in size and are much easier to take, and even children and small adults. When such depredations occur, the fear generated among the general public and consequently, the political and public uproar leads to the leopard or indeed, many leopards being trapped in the general vicinity of the incident by a harassed forest department.

Western Maharashtra has been the focus of many such conflict cases in the recent past and has been one of the severely affected states as far as man–leopard conflict goes. To understand the issue, apply short-term Band Aids to immediate problems and suggest long-term measures, all in one go, needs much hard work, good biology and practical common sense. The two authors of this report, which is a result of two separate Rapid Action grants given by the Wildlife Trust of India, combined all these in good measure. Vidya is a biologist and Aniruddha, a veterinarian and using the combined skills of both disciplines, the duo have managed an excellent set of conservation actions and study rolled into one.

We, at the Wildlife Trust of India are extremely happy that the short term aid that was afforded to these two individuals has resulted in such good work. Apart from several individual carnivores having directly benefited due to their interventions, their work is proving to be the basis for policy change in the country. This is what the Rapid Action Project set out to do, and this report is, thereby, an exemplar of the ideals of the RAP project.

Vivek Menon
Executive Director, WTI
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