We believe wild animals should restrict themselves only to within wilderness areas. However, Protected Areas are man-made boundaries not understood by wild animals, they cover only about 5% of the land area in India, the Indian laws strictly protects wild animals irrespective of its geography making it inevitable that wild animals will use human use landscapes. For the wild carnivores India has one of the highest density of domestic animals making it a prey rich landscape. While most parts of the world have seen the decimation of its wild carnivores despite much lower human density, India still retains all its wild carnivores except the cheetah. The reasons why wildlife still persists among high human densities is not yet clear but widespread extermination of wild carnivores has never been part of the Indian people’s mandate. In contrast many developed countries today are coming to terms with carnivore populations that are now recolonizing following extermination decades ago. The speaker uses the case of the leopard to show how this species contests the expected notions of wild animals, geographies and how as biologists we are dealing with only one aspect of what is essentially a very complex issue.
Dr. Vidya Athreya is an ecologist whose has been always been interested in interactions between different species. She has been working on the human leopard interactions in human use landscapes in Maharashtra for the last decade. She did her Masters from Pondicherry and Iowa University, her PhD from Manipal University and is currently with the Wildlife Conservation Society - India programme.