What is behind leopard attacks in northwest Pakistan?

Human-leopard conflict is a challenge for the people living near leopard habitat, and for the agencies charged with the conservation of the species. Relevant departments, conservationists, and wildlife managers have a variety of tools to lessen the conflict.  However, in the Galiat forests of Abbottabad in northwest Pakistan, they seem to have been unsuccessful so far. And this is a significant threat to the already threatened population of common leopards throughout Pakistan.

In the Galiat region, the expansion of human settlements is constricting the natural migration corridors of leopards. As large predators, leopards require extensive home ranges. Habitat fragmentation is forcing leopards to pass through human settlements, and while migrating they are more likely to come in contact with people.  They then attack people, killing at least ten and injuring 22 over the past 15 years, according to a recent survey (Awais 2016).

Human-carnivore conflict experts point out lack of natural prey as a key factor contributing to leopard attacks. According to detailed study in 2014, the leopard population in Ayubia National Park, Pakistan is totally sustained by domestic animals. When a leopard comes for livestock, humans are more vulnerable to attacks.  According to another report published in 2003, experts are of the view that leopards are the most highly adaptable of all big cats and can vary their diet accordingly. In areas where natural prey has been depleted, it is not uncommon for leopards to prey on humans and livestock.  So far, 72 leopards have been killed in retaliation, according to the KP Wildlife Department of Pakistan.

People who live in the Galiat region have responded with concern about the deaths of people by leopards in recent years, although this concern must be balanced out with the need to support large carnivores like leopards in the ecosystem.  The increasing presence of humans and their livestock in areas where leopards need to move only exacerbates the likelihood for conflict.

Resources

Awais, M. 2016. Impact of climatic factors on human-common leopard conflict in the Galiat Forest Division, District Abbottabad, Pakistan. MPhil thesis in Wildlife Management (Unpublished). PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

2017-03-19T12:27:48+00:00 February 9th, 2017|

About the Author:

Muhammad Awais

Muhammad Awais earned his MPhil in Wildlife Management from PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi and BS (Hons) in Zoology from Hazara University Mansehra, Pakistan. His thesis focused on “Impact of climatic factors on human-common leopard conflict in Galiat Forests of Abbottabad, Pakistan”. He has also been working on conservation of Asiatic black bears in north-west Pakistan since 2015.