Indian Leopard Panthera pardus fusca: A Comprehensive Review of Current Ecological Knowledge and Research Efforts Across Its Range

Chaudhary Rohit, Jamal A. Khan, Nazneen Zehra

Abstract


Leopards are most widespread member of family Felidae and have nine subspecies across the world. We reviewed the literature on the Indian leopards to summarize the extent of research efforts and current ecological understanding. We reviewed 105 studies published from 1960 to 2018 in 55 journals, and summarized the knowledge on evolution and taxonomy, status and distribution, abundance and density, feeding habits, spatial ecology, activity pattern, human-leopard conflict, interspecific interactions and habitat. Most of the studies were from protected areas as compared to non-protected areas while only three studies were conducted in ex-situ conditions. Human-wildlife conflict along with feeding habits were the most studied aspects while spatial and temporal ecology and behavior were the least studied aspects. Already lost 70% of its historical range, Indian leopards presently have patchy distribution. High densities of leopards were visible in prey rich areas. Leopard’s diet was dominated by wild ungulates in PA’s while in human dominated landscape, dogs and livestock were dominant. Indian leopards have smaller home ranges as compared to the African relatives. Leopards show activity peaks during down and dusk time of the day. Cover was an important factor affecting the presence of leopards. Leopards coexist with other large predator by fine adjustment in use of space time and food. Human-leopard conflict was one of the most studied aspect. Studies shows site dependency of conflict. Most severe conflict was livestock depredation. Important factor affecting conflict were occupation of humans, husbandry practices, change in land use pattern and successful conservation in some areas. Present policies to manage conflict seem insufficient. Feeding and behavioral plasticity makes leopards successful survival of human dominated landscapes. Apart from conflict and dietary studies, there is a lack of studies on ecological aspects such as population size, spatial ecology, interspecific interactions, habitat and behavior. These studies are needed to improve our understanding of their ecology for effective  conservation. There is also an urgent need to look into the policies regarding management of human-wildlife conflict.

Keywords


Leopard; Density; Feeing Habit; Human-leopard Conflict; Mitigation Measures; India.

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