Sanjay GubbiAmrita MenonShravan SutharH C Poornesha
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Monitoring Leopard Population in Malai Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary between 2014 and 2020

Sanjay Gubbi, Amrita Menon, Shravan Suthar and H.C. Poornesha

Leopards (Panthera pardus) are the most widely distributed of the big cats and are adapted to a wide variety of habitats such as rainforests, open grasslands, deserts and alpine areas (Nowell & Jackson 1996). They are found in the sub-Saharan Africa while in Asia they are prevalent from the Middle East to the Pacific Ocean (Jacobson et al. 2016). Sri Lankan and Javan islands also have endangered population of leopards (Kittle et al. 2017; Wibisono et al. 2018). They even occur near large metropolitan cities such as Johannesburg, Mumbai and Bengaluru (Bhatia et al. 2013; Kuhn 2014; Gubbi et al. 2017a). Their adaptability to human dominated landscapes and flexible prey preference makes them a highly conflict-prone species.

Panthera pardus fusca, found in India, is one of the nine recognised subspecies of the leopard by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (Stein et al. 2020). Across most of its geographic expanse, leopards are persecuted at a local level due to prevailing conflict with humans even though they are globally and nationally considered as a flagship species and protected. The leopard is listed under the ‘Vulnerable’ category in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Stein et al. 2020). Under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 in India, they are listed as a Schedule 1 species which provides them with the highest level of protection.

The main objectives of the study were

  • To estimate baseline population abundance and density of leopards

  • To monitor long-term variation in population abundance and density of leopards

  • To observe difference in detection rate between male and female leopards

  • To establish the Relative Abundance Index (RAI) of prey species