Krishnakumar Nagarajan, Divya Ramesh, Durairaj Boominathan, Sanket Bhale, Pranav Chanchani, Ramakrishnan Balasundaram

Population status and density estimate of Leopard Panthera pardus fusca in dry thorn forests of southern India

Abstract The study aims to assess the population status and density of the Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) in the Erode Forest Division, Tamil Nadu. The Erode Forest division has numerous villages within its boundaries and is exposed to associated biotic pressures. In order to improve the management practices of the wildlife in the area and to enhance its conservation, it is relevant to assess its status. In 2018 and 2020, we estimated the population density of the leopard in the entire forest division using 2 km2 sample grids and the camera trapping method. In each grid, we deployed a pair of camera traps, the cumulative number of trap-nights being 22983 (10732 trap nights in 2018 and 12251 in 2020). We analysed the obtained data using spatially explicit capture-recapture models (SECR). The surveys yielded 198 images of the leopard in 2018 and 272 images in 2020, of which 48 and 44 leopard individuals were identified in the respective years based on the rosette pattern. The density estimates were 5.16 (SE = ┬▒0.89) and 4.00 (SE ┬▒ 0.72) individuals/100 km2 in 2018 and 2020, respectively. We found that in some regions overlapping with the human-use area, leopard densities were high, indicating that the species successfully exploits areas near human habitation and highlighting its high potential for interaction with humans. This baseline estimate and insights will help prioritize management actions, strengthen large mammal conservation beyond the boundaries of protected areas (PA), and plan human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures to enable the persistence of large carnivores in multi-use forests.

Doi https://doi.org/10.35513/21658005.2023.1.6

Keywords Leopard; population density; camera trapping; human habitations; home range; activity pattern; multi-use landscape

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