Domestic dogs as an important food source for Leopards in India

| April 11, 2015 | Reply

It is often assumed that the density of predators depends largely on the amount of available wild prey species. This is not always the case and in some places predators can rely almost completely on domestic animals.

A recently published paper (Athreyaa et al 2014. Cat among the dogs: leopard Panthera pardus diet in a human-dominated landscape in western Maharashtra, India. Oryx) shows the almost complete dependence of Leopards on dogs and other domestic animals.
In the study area in the Ahmednagar district of western Maharashtra the researchers analyzed the scats of Leopards to find out what they normally eat in a habitat that is dominated by human land use and free of wild ungulates.

Dogs where the most important prey with a frequency of occurrence in scats of 38.5% and a relative biomass of 39.2% in the Leopard diet.

The second most common prey (measured as frequency of occurrence in scats) was the Domestic Cat (15.4%). In biomass the cat was the 3rd most import prey (cows being 2nd).
Cows and goats were also important prey species with an occurrence of 10.8% and 10.0% respectively (measured as frequency of occurrence in scats. Their importance in biomass was 14.2 and 11.2 respectively.
Among natural prey were rodents (6.9%), birds (3.9%), mongoose (3.1%), Small Indian Civet (2.3%) and primates with 0.8% (all numbers in frequency of occurrence in scats).
It is clear from these numbers that the Leopards in the study area subsist almost completely on domestic animals (dogs, domestic cats, cows, goats and also sheep and pigs).

The research shows that human dominated landscapes can play an important role for the conservation of Leopards (and other carnivores). Of course conservationists should also focus on increasing the populations of wild ungulates as these can help reduce human-leopard conflicts and the ungulates themselves may need conservation efforts to stop further population declines.
Leopards can live in many places where Tigers or Lions cannot. The extremely adaptable cats may very well have a bright future if human-leopard conflicts can be solved and enough habitat and prey is protected and Leopards are tolerated in human-dominated landscapes.
For a global Leopard conservation program, see Project Pardus by Panthera:
Project Pardus

Further reading:
Athreyaa et al 2014. Cat among the dogs: leopard Panthera pardus diet in a human-dominated landscape in western Maharashtra, India. Oryx

Category: cats

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