Leopards, Hyenas Co-Exist With Humans In India

By Staff Reporter on March 30, 2013 4:59 AM EDT

Sri Lankan leopard
Leopard (representational image) (Photo: flickr/ (CC BY 2.0) / Marie Hale)

A new study has found that large carnivorous animals, including leopards and striped hyenas, co-exist with human neighbors in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

The study led by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India scientist Vidya Athreaya has found wild animals prowling close to houses at night. The research team used camera traps for their project -- "Big Cats in Our Backyards" -- and caught as many as five adult large carnivores per 38 square miles in a human-dominated landscape.

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The camera spotted leopards, striped hyenas, rusty spotted cat, small Indian civet, Indian fox, jungle cat, jackal and mongoose. Despite sharing the same paths, the animals have largely remained undetected by the public. There have been very few instances of attacks in this region, said the researchers.

"Human attacks by leopards were rare despite a potentially volatile situation considering that the leopard has been involved in serious conflict, including human deaths in adjoining areas," big cat expert Ullas Karanth of WCS said in a statement. "The results of our work push the frontiers of our understanding of the adaptability of both humans and wildlife to each other's presence."

Researchers said that the discovery of wild animals in close proximity to humans highlights the need to take better conservation efforts outside of protected areas, in a bid to safeguard wildlife in a variety of landscapes.

The findings were published online March 6 in the journal PLOS One.

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