Wildlife biologist and conservationist Sanjay Gubbi on why there’s little understanding about leopards in India
In an interview with Gadgetclock, Gubbi discusses learnings from his analysis work, his new e book Leopard Diaries, threats to leopards like poaching and habitat loss, and what readers in leopards — and even wildlife in normal — can do to additional conservation targets.
The Indian leopard is among the nation’s 5 Huge Cat species, the others being the Royal Bengal tiger, the Asiatic lion, the Snow Leopard and the Indo-Chinese language Clouded leopard. Regardless of the approval for their charisma, we hear of and know very much less about leopards — be it the Indian leopard, the Snow Leopard or the Indo-Chinese language Clouded leopard.
“How huge is a tiger’s residence vary? What number of tigers are there? These questions are simply answered relating to tigers. However change ‘tigers’ with ‘leopards’ and the solutions grow to be scanty,” says Sanjay Gubbi in a brand new e book titled Leopard Diaries: The Rosette in India. The e book was launched on 15 March 2021.
Gubbi is a Karnataka-based wildlife biologist and conservationist. Within the e book, he explains leopard nitty-gritty with subject observations spanning 10 years. The observations are largely from the Kaveri-MM Hills-BR Hills-Bannerghatta panorama in Karnataka, which additionally contains areas bordering Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Smaller species just like the rusty-spotted cat, chinkara, brown mongoose and honey badgers additionally make endearing cameo appearances in these leopard-focussed research. And all the sector narratives are interspersed with literature from different international locations that maintain wholesome leopard populations, like these in Africa.
The e book particulars the behaviour, weight loss plan, mating patterns and different organic traits of the Indian leopard. It additionally notes how these leopards are uniquely adaptive. They’re discovered in a variety of landscapes like rocky outcrops, forests, deserts — each sizzling and chilly, and human-dominated landscapes like cities and agricultural fields. They will survive on a wide range of meals like gaur, nilgai, wild boar, chital, sambar and small-sized treats like hares.
There are additionally intriguing references to black and pink panthers. Sure, these really exist. Although standard tradition (Bagheera, and the Pink Panther sequence) popularised these wildlife species, they didn’t think about them. Each of those are leopards with pigment variations.
In an interview with Gadgetclock, Gubbi talks about learnings from his analysis work, his e book, threats to leopards like poaching and habitat loss, and what readers in leopards — and even wildlife in normal — can do to additional conservation targets. Edited excerpts:
What about leopards made you need to focus on the species on your long run work?
There’s very little understanding about leopards in India. Parallels are drawn from tigers and used to outline leopards. I grew up in leopard nation [Tumkur district in Karnataka] and this cat has at all times fascinated me. Though India homes one of many largest populations of untamed leopards in the world and it holds over 77 p.c of the extant vary of the subspecies Panthera pardus fusca [scientific name of the Indian leopard] literature about this cat has accrued at a surprisingly sluggish tempo. Lower than 15 p.c of the scientific literature printed on leopards comes from India. It’s worse in standard format the place writing on leopards, even to at the present time, is dominated by ‘shikaar’ literature; the acclaimed science and nature author David Quammen calls such style of literature as ‘advertising and marketing of zoological melodrama’ and ‘predator pornography’.
Why and for whom did you write this e book and how lengthy did it take?
If we have to discover extra assist for wildlife conservation, together with leopards, it ought to attain most people, policymakers, media, and social influencers. Moreover, we have to get the eye of younger conservation fans who’re being misguided by ‘cleaning soap opera’ and ‘actuality present’ sorts of conservation actions. I hope the three years I put into authoring this e book will assist obtain assist for conservation in no matter little method doable.
Apex predators like tigers, lions and leopards form and keep landscapes. The e book intently seems to be at not solely leopard biology however ecology too. This mixture of biology and ecology appears essential, particularly given how wildlife habitat is often overshadowed in information headlines by wildlife species, tigers and elephants in specific. Your feedback?
With out understanding wildlife habitats and the ecosystem, species conservation will likely be fraught with irreparable blunders. We’ve got already seen it with the lack of habitat specialist species resembling the good Indian bustard, Bengal florican, Indian wolf and others. We have no idea what number of smaller species we could have misplaced with out even noticing their demise. Therefore understanding the relationships between the focal species and the setting it survives in is crucial. Equally, if a political chief or society questions the need to avoid wasting species, we have to have rational solutions past emotional arguments.
Provided that human-leopard battle is rising at an alarming price, it looks as if mainstreaming leopard data — each amongst rural and city folks — is paramount to making sure the species’ survival. Do you suppose ignorance or misinformation about leopards hinders conservation, particularly in points like battle?
It will likely be unimaginable to preserve wildlife with out bringing battle to tolerable limits. One of many avenues to realize it’s by constructing consciousness about leopards and discovering methods to mitigate battle in communities which might be instantly affected by battle. A well-liked narrative has been floated that leopards do extraordinarily nicely in man-made habitats resembling sugarcane and maize fields. Although leopards are discovered in such short-term habitats, analysis exhibits that they’re no substitute for pure habitats, and these populations usually are not sustainable in the longer-term because of numerous causes, together with excessive ranges of human-leopard battle. Though such standard narratives sound very enticing, we have to be cautious whereas selling them as they will in the end have important damaging impacts on leopards.
Within the chapter ‘Following the Cats’, you point out that Huge Cat biologists, particularly together with these finding out leopards, are as territorial because the animals. And the way this combines with media propensity to be the decide, jury and executioner and turns into debilitating toxicity. In a single case, that is what led you to desert your work on radio collaring leopards.
So whereas leopards are nonetheless being captured and translocated because of battle, such translocations usually are not being monitored and we don’t know what occurs to translocated leopards. Finally, conservation loses. Folks lose too as a result of battle just isn’t handled in the healthful method that it ought to. Your feedback?
Wildlife biology and analysis, particularly on giant cats, just isn’t as rosy because it seems to be. It is riddled with hegemony, jealousy and one-upmanship. Sadly, Huge Cat biologists ignore the truth that these traits influence conservation and even the species they’re working on. Quite than working collaboratively, wildlife biology and conservation is a really fractured subject.
Might you elaborate on the most important threats that leopards in India face in the present day? Is there something that you simply want the readers of your e book might do about these threats?
Habitat loss, poaching of prey species particularly outdoors protected areas, human-leopard battle, mortality because of vehicular collisions and snares, poaching of leopards for his or her physique elements are a number of the critical threats leopards face in India. Rising consciousness about leopard conservation, being cautious whereas driving via leopard habitats, preventing problems with leopard habitat loss, finishing up consciousness applications, forming leopard conservation teams in city areas the place these huge cats are discovered on the periphery of cities and cities may very well be a number of the actions readers can take up.
#Wildlife #biologist #conservationist #Sanjay #Gubbi #understanding #leopards #India