Where there are people, expect to find few leopards. That’s because the apex predator suffers from man hunting for their pelts, from habitat loss and fragmentation, and from retaliatory killings due to real or imagined losses of human or livestock lives.
Similarly, where there are tigers, expect to find few leopards. In this case, it’s because the two big cats compete for the same prey, and in most cases the tigers are socially dominant to the leopards.
Despite the odds stacked against them, leopards are actually quite widespread, ranging from Africa up through the Middle East and into southern and Southeast Asia.
So how do leopards manage to eke out their existence when they’re forced to contend with competition from other cats and a mix of aggression and habitat loss from humans?
New research from National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center researcher Neil Carter and colleagues suggests that leopards employ different strategies to deal with the different sorts of threats posted by humans and by tigers.
The study took place in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, which contains leopards and tigers as well as a veritable buffet of prey species on which the cats regularly dine: spotted deer, muntjac, hog deer, sambar deer, gaur (also known as Indian bison), and wild boar.
Carter collected his data primarily by using camera traps in the dry seasons of 2010 and 2011, deployed both within the park and within a forested area just outside the park in the “buffer zone” between the park and human settlements.