Sanjay GubbiRashmi BhatN S HarishM D Madhusudan
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Ecology and conservation status of leopards in Bhadravathi Territorial Division

Despitethe leopard (Panthera pardus) being ahighly conflict-prone species with a wide distribution range, there are fewpopulation estimates of this species in Karnataka, especially outside protectedareas. Effective conservation of this large carnivore and mitigation measurestowards leopard conflict requires reliable estimates of population density invarious habitats and landscapes with different management priorities. Weconducted a population estimation exercise for the leopard using photographic capture-recaptureanalysis, using spatially explicit capture–recapture (SECR) models, in the multiple-useforests in Bhadravathi Division in central-interior Karnataka. Densityestimates for leopards in this 370 km2 area, which includes 14state, minor forests and sandal reserves, all continuous to each other, wasfound to be 11.1/100 km2 (95% CI 9.7-12.2/100 km2) withan estimated population size of 44 individuals (95% CI 39-49). We also recorded14 species of large and small leopard prey from this area including gaur,sambar, chital, barking deer, four-horned antelope, wild pig and mouse deer. Usingpublicly available forest cover analyses tools, we estimate that the area haslost forest cover of ~14% since their notification between 1905 and 1941. Wepropose that the forest areas surveyed be declared as a wildlife sanctuaryunder the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 to uphold to their rich wildlife values.

October 2014