Understanding drivers of human-leopard conflicts in the Indian Himalayan region: Spatio-temporal patterns of conflicts and perception of local communities towards conserving large carnivores
Naha, D.; Sathyakumar, S.; Rawat, G.S.
Plos one 13(10): E0204528
Human killing is the decisive and most critical expression of human-leopard conflict and needs to be addressed sensitively to maintain local support for leopard conservation in India. This research was undertaken to investigate the ecological aspects of human killing and injury, spatial characteristic and pattern of such sites, temporal and seasonal trends of attacks and perception of local communities towards leopard in the Indian Himalayan region (IHR). We surveyed two sites i) Pauri Garhwal in the western part and ii) North Bengal (Dooars) in the eastern part of IHR, compiled secondary data on human-leopard conflict records and made field visits to (N = 101) conflict sites. We also conducted (N = 186) semi-structured questionnaire surveys in each of the sites to assess perception of local communities towards leopard. We analyzed the conflict data using rare events model in a binary logistic regression framework to understand spatial patterns of such incidents for Pauri Garhwal and North Bengal. The average number of injuries and deaths to leopard attacks in Pauri was estimated to be 11 (SE 1.13) and 3 (SE 0.6) per year between 2006-2016 whereas in North Bengal it was estimated to be 70 (SE 9.2) and 1.6 (SE 0.3) respectively between 2004-2016. About 97% of the leopard attacks in North Bengal and 60% of the leopard attacks in Pauri resulted in human injuries. Majority of the leopard attack victims in Pauri were children and young people, whereas in North Bengal it was middle aged tea estate workers. Attack on humans in Pauri were recorded mostly near areas with dense scrub cover whereas in North Bengal it was reported within tea-estates. The percentage of human deaths to leopard attacks in Pauri were higher (40%) compared to a mere (3%) in North Bengal. Forty-one percent of respondents in Pauri and 75% in North Bengal were positive towards presence and conservation of leopard. A predictive risk map revealed central and northern regions of Pauri Garhwal and protected areas, peripheral areas in central and south-western dooars (North Bengal) as high "human-leopard conflict risk zones". This analytical procedure can be adopted in other sites to identify potential human-carnivore conflict risk zones.