Biodiversity: ‘Renewable energy use can reduce exposure to leopards’

Researcher says loss of natural habitat due to deforestation has caused leopards to venture into human settlements

Our Correspondent July 01, 2015
Researcher says loss of natural habitat due to deforestation has caused leopards to venture into human settlements. PHOTO: WWF

LAHORE: Use of renewable energy resources should be promoted among human settlements in proximity of the natural habitat of the common leopard specie. This would help prevent deforestation in these areas and reduce the chance of leopards’ exposure to human settlements, Uzma Khan, bio-diversity director at the Worldwide Fund (WWF) for Nature, said on Tuesday.

She was speaking to the media about her research on leopards found in the country at the WWF quarterly meeting.

Khan said musk deer and grey goral were natural prey of leopards. Introduction of these species in areas where leopard were found could help in conservation efforts.

She also sought public awareness campaigns to educate residents of such settlement about the habits of the animal.

She said in most instances excessive deforestation had been responsible for exposing human settlements to the animal. She said this was also the case for settlements in Nathiagali, Ayubia and Murree areas. She said she had been studying these settlements for four years for her doctorate degree.

Khan said unlike other big cats leopard was shy and reclusive. In most cases leopards venture into human settlements because their own habitat and prey were on a decline, she added. She said her research showed that the average home range for a leopard was 72 square kilometres. With an area of 33 sq km, the Ayubia National Park lacked enough space for leopards living there.

She said safe passages for leopards had been declining in the region for 20 years due to growth of human settlements.

Khan said her research showed that most leopard attack incidents in these areas had taken place during evening hours. “Leopards hunt in the evening. People should be asked to stay away from forests during these hours,” she said. She said leopards were not man-hater by instinct, adding that there had been several leopard attack incidents where people were not eaten.

Khan said more livestock had died in her area of research from disease than attacks by leopard. She said mostly attacks on cattle had taken place when they were left to graze unattended.

Khan said attack on livestock was the main reason given by her respondents for hunting and killing of leopards. Though, most of her respondents did not state livestock as an income source.

During his concluding remarks, Dr Ejaz Ahmed, senior director at the WWF-Pakistan, said the leopard was at the top of the food chain and was, therefore, very important for the ecosystem.

The common leopard specie is mentioned in by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as near threatened in the world. IUCN country assessments, however, state that the specie is critically endangered in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2015. 


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