Large carnivore-human coexistence is a challenging issue in wildlife conservation worldwide. An adequate and diverse prey spectrum favours carnivore persistence. Prey depletion and habitat loss elicit conflict with humans and require sound conservation measures. We evaluated the conflict between common leopards and humans in a densely populated Himalayan forest area of Pakistan. In two decades, the local forests decreased at an average rate of 65.5 ha/year (6.6%), with a concomitant increase in areas covered by human settlements (81.5%) and agricultural lands (15.4%). Ranging movements of a GPS/GSM-radiotagged male leopard over 16 months encompassed an area inhabited by c. 124,000 people. Livestock dominated the leopard’s diet (absolute frequency of occurrence: 80%), while wild ungulates were rarely eaten (absolute occurrence: 22%). Domestic goats were the most frequent diet item (61%), followed by domestic dogs (12%) and Bos spp. (6%). Wild prey included canids, small carnivores, rhesus monkeys, small mammals and gallinaceous birds. Socioeconomic implications of human-leopard coexistence were investigated: 18.5% of the households interviewed (N = 1016) suffered livestock depredation by leopards, with an overall loss of 123 USD/km2/year, in an area of 328 km2. In the first c. 15 years of this century, about 2 attacks to humans/year were recorded, half of which were lethal, whereas c. 6 leopards/year were killed in retaliation. The common leopard is ‘critically endangered’ in Pakistan mainly because of habitat loss and concurrent prey depletion. To increase the long-term survival of leopards and mitigate human-carnivore conflicts, priority should be given to restoration of a diverse natural prey assembly and protection of forest habitats, together with improved livestock management practices and livestock compensation. The latter will require a sustainable financial mechanism.
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 4, 2018
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