Data from: Spotted in the news: using media reports to examine leopard distribution, depredation, and management practices outside protected areas in southern India
Athreya, Vidya et al. (2016), Data from: Spotted in the news: using media reports to examine leopard distribution, depredation, and management practices outside protected areas in southern India, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4p7g1
There is increasing evidence of large carnivore presence outside protected areas, globally. Although this spells conservation success through population recoveries, it makes carnivore persistence in human-use landscapes tenuous. The widespread distribution of leopards in certain regions of India typifies this problem. We obtained information on leopard-human interactions at a regional scale in Karnataka State, India, based on systematic surveys of local media reports. We applied an innovative occupancy modelling approach to map their distribution patterns and identify hotspots of livestock/human depredation. We also evaluated management responses like removals of ‘problem’ leopards through capture and translocations. Leopards occupied around 84,000 km2 or 47% of the State’s geographic area, outside designated national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Their presence was facilitated by extent of vegetative cover- including irrigated croplands, rocky escarpments, and prey base in the form of feral and free-ranging dogs. Higher probabilities of livestock/human attacks by leopards were associated with similar ecological features as well as with capture/removals of leopards. Of the 56 cases of leopard removals reported, 91% did not involve human attacks, but followed livestock predation or only leopard sightings. The lack of knowledge on leopard ecology in human-use areas has resulted in unscientific interventions, which could aggravate the problem rather than mitigating it. Our results establish the presence of resident, breeding leopards in human-use areas. We therefore propose a shift in management focus, from current reactive practices like removal and translocation of leopards, to proactive measures that ensure safety of human lives and livelihoods.