Wildlife biologist and conservationist Sanjay Gubbi on why there’s little understanding about leopards in India
In an interview with Alenz, Gubbi discusses learnings from his analysis work, his new ebook Leopard Diaries, threats to leopards like poaching and habitat loss, and what readers interested by leopards — and even wildlife generally — can do to additional conservation targets.
The Indian leopard is likely one of the nation’s 5 Large Cat species, the others being the Royal Bengal tiger, the Asiatic lion, the Snow Leopard and the Indo-Chinese language Clouded leopard. Regardless of the approval for their charisma, we hear of and know very much less about leopards — be it the Indian leopard, the Snow Leopard or the Indo-Chinese language Clouded leopard.
“How huge is a tiger’s dwelling vary? What number of tigers are there? These questions are simply answered in the case of tigers. However change ‘tigers’ with ‘leopards’ and the solutions change into scanty,” says Sanjay Gubbi in a brand new ebook titled Leopard Diaries: The Rosette in India. The ebook was launched on 15 March 2021.
Gubbi is a Karnataka-based wildlife biologist and conservationist. Within the ebook, he explains leopard nitty-gritty with area observations spanning 10 years. The observations are largely from the Kaveri-MM Hills-BR Hills-Bannerghatta panorama in Karnataka, which additionally contains areas bordering Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Smaller species just like the rusty-spotted cat, chinkara, brown mongoose and honey badgers additionally make endearing cameo appearances in these leopard-focussed research. And all the sector narratives are interspersed with literature from different international locations that maintain wholesome leopard populations, like these in Africa.
The ebook particulars the behaviour, food regimen, mating patterns and different organic traits of the Indian leopard. It additionally notes how these leopards are uniquely adaptive. They’re present in a variety of landscapes like rocky outcrops, forests, deserts — each cold and hot, and human-dominated landscapes like cities and agricultural fields. They will survive on quite a lot of meals like gaur, nilgai, wild boar, chital, sambar and small-sized treats like hares.
There are additionally intriguing references to black and pink panthers. Sure, these really exist. Although standard tradition (Bagheera, and the Pink Panther collection) popularised these wildlife species, they didn’t think about them. Each of those are leopards with pigment variations.
In an interview with Alenz, Gubbi talks about learnings from his analysis work, his ebook, threats to leopards like poaching and habitat loss, and what readers interested by leopards — and even wildlife generally — can do to additional conservation targets. Edited excerpts:
What about leopards made you need to concentrate on the species in your long run work?
There may be little or no understanding about leopards in India. Parallels are drawn from tigers and used to outline leopards. I grew up in leopard nation [Tumkur district in Karnataka] and this cat has at all times fascinated me. Though India homes one of many largest populations of untamed leopards on the planet and it holds over 77 % of the extant vary of the subspecies Panthera pardus fusca [scientific name of the Indian leopard] literature about this cat has amassed at a surprisingly gradual tempo. Lower than 15 % of the scientific literature printed on leopards comes from India. It’s worse in standard format the place writing on leopards, even to at the present time, is dominated by ‘shikaar’ literature; the acclaimed science and nature author David Quammen calls such style of literature as ‘advertising of zoological melodrama’ and ‘predator pornography’.
Why and for whom did you write this ebook and the way lengthy did it take?
If we have to discover extra help for wildlife conservation, together with leopards, it ought to attain most people, policymakers, media, and social influencers. Moreover, we have to get the eye of younger conservation fanatics who’re being misguided by ‘cleaning soap opera’ and ‘actuality present’ sorts of conservation actions. I hope the three years I put into authoring this ebook will assist obtain help for conservation in no matter little method doable.
Apex predators like tigers, lions and leopards form and preserve landscapes. The ebook carefully appears at not solely leopard biology however ecology too. This mixture of biology and ecology appears essential, particularly given how wildlife habitat is normally overshadowed in information headlines by wildlife species, tigers and elephants specifically. Your feedback?
With out understanding wildlife habitats and the ecosystem, species conservation shall be fraught with irreparable blunders. We’ve got already seen it with the lack of habitat specialist species corresponding to the nice Indian bustard, Bengal florican, Indian wolf and others. We have no idea what number of smaller species we might have misplaced with out even noticing their demise. Therefore understanding the relationships between the focal species and the surroundings it survives in is essential. Equally, if a political chief or society questions the need to avoid wasting species, we have to have rational solutions past emotional arguments.
On condition that human-leopard battle is rising at an alarming price, it looks like mainstreaming leopard information — each amongst rural and concrete people — is paramount to making sure the species’ survival. Do you suppose ignorance or misinformation about leopards hinders conservation, particularly in elements like battle?
Will probably be inconceivable to preserve wildlife with out bringing battle to tolerable limits. One of many avenues to realize it’s by constructing consciousness about leopards and discovering methods to mitigate battle in communities which can be immediately affected by battle. A preferred narrative has been floated that leopards do extraordinarily properly in man-made habitats corresponding to sugarcane and maize fields. Although leopards are present in such momentary habitats, analysis reveals that they’re no substitute for pure habitats, and these populations aren’t sustainable within the longer-term attributable to numerous causes, together with excessive ranges of human-leopard battle. Despite the fact that such standard narratives sound very enticing, we have to be cautious whereas selling them as they will in the end have important adverse impacts on leopards.
Within the chapter ‘Following the Cats’, you point out that Large Cat biologists, particularly together with these finding out leopards, are as territorial because the animals. And the way this combines with media propensity to be the decide, jury and executioner and turns into debilitating toxicity. In a single case, that is what led you to desert your work on radio collaring leopards.
So whereas leopards are nonetheless being captured and translocated attributable to battle, such translocations aren’t being monitored and we do not know what occurs to translocated leopards. In the end, conservation loses. Individuals lose too as a result of battle shouldn’t be handled within the healthful method that it ought to. Your feedback?
Wildlife biology and analysis, particularly on giant cats, shouldn’t be as rosy because it appears. It is riddled with hegemony, jealousy and one-upmanship. Sadly, Large Cat biologists ignore the truth that these traits influence conservation and even the species they’re engaged on. Slightly than working collaboratively, wildlife biology and conservation is a really fractured area.
Might you elaborate on the key threats that leopards in India face at this time? Is there something that you just want the readers of your ebook may do about these threats?
Habitat loss, poaching of prey species particularly exterior protected areas, human-leopard battle, mortality attributable to vehicular collisions and snares, poaching of leopards for his or her physique components are a number of the critical threats leopards face in India. Growing consciousness about leopard conservation, being cautious whereas driving by means of leopard habitats, preventing problems with leopard habitat loss, finishing up consciousness packages, forming leopard conservation teams in city areas the place these huge cats are discovered on the periphery of cities and cities might be a number of the actions readers can take up.
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