Amongst the large carnivores, the leopard Panthera pardus is a highly adaptable, elastic species. Because of these ecological traits, it comes into direct conflict with people, posing serious consequences to the lives of those affected, thus impeding larger conservation goals. In India, one of the key mitigation strategies towards leopard conflict includes capture and trans- location of individual leopards. In response to severe conflict, a policy guideline was brought out in 2011 by the govern- ment that discouraged capture and translocation of leopards. In this study we evaluate the impact of these guidelines and responses of the field managers towards them.
A total of 357 leopards were captured in Karnataka state during 2009–2016. The data collected on these captures indicates that since the government guidelines were issued, leopard captures have increased by 9.67 per year, and monthly translocations increased threefold. Captured animals were translocated mostly to protected areas (85.5%), taken to captivity (10.8%), and a few resulted in capture mortality (3.8%). A total of eight primary reasons were listed for capture of leopards, with live- stock depredation (38.1%) being the main reason. Questionnaire surveys revealed that 64% of the managers were unaware of the presence of the guidelines, and only 1.9% followed them.
The guidelines make a set of thoughtful suggestions to reduce conflict, but large-scale improvement is required by bringing in field-level managers, communities, media personnel, and other stakeholders while developing such policies. Similarly, targeted outreach and capacity build- ing is mandatory to raise awareness and for effective imple- mentation of the guidelines.