Conflicts - Past & Present

Leopards occur all over India. They have always lived at the fringes of villages and human habitations, preying off domestic livestock and dogs. For instance the 1883 Nasik Gazatteer states the following “It is often found on the outskirts of villages, carrying away village dogs and prefers scrubby jungles to dense forests”

Jim Corbett was the first to popularize the man-eating “habits” of leopards in gripping part fiction, part fact tales. Attacks on humans by large cats have been reported since historical times. Given the high densities of humans and their associated domestic animals (potential prey for large cats) in India, attacks on livestock are inevitable and so will accidental attacks on humans.

All the three large cats are known to attack people in India (Asiatic Lion, tiger and the leopard). However it should be noted that attacks with the intention of killing / feeding are sporadic either in space or time across these species. Some areas have had a chronic problem of man-killing/eating by leopards like Uttarakhand whereas most other areas have had historical leopard presence but no comparable conflict. We still have lots to understand about the precursors of the factors that lead to attacks on people

Our work began in Maharashtra in 2003, and allowed us to understand that the mere presence of the species does not imply attacks on people. In most cases these carnivores (be it leopards or wolves) share spaces with humans and live off their livestock but rarely go for man. When they do, it is often because we do not yet have a good understanding of their biology.