The population of large carnivores in Manas, north-east India is bouncing back from near extinction, a recent study has found. The study published by Cambridge University Press in the journal Oryx reveals that both clouded and common leopards are recovering well after a decade of conflict in the region.

Researchers in north-east India have produced the first reliable estimates for clouded leopard and common leopard numbers in the Manas National Park, Assam. The study reveals that the large carnivore populations are recovering well after decade-long ethnic clashes in the area; when most of the wildlife was almost wiped out by poaching and hunting.

With recent support from Government agencies, including the Forest Department, and the involvement of various NGOs and local communities, wildlife populations in Manas are now showing signs of recovery.

The study has established a baseline to facilitate long-term monitoring of large carnivores in Manas National Park. This is especially important for the further study of the elusive clouded leopards as they are relatively rare and the hot, humid climate where they range makes it difficult to track them.

Lead author of the study, Dr Jimmy Borah of WWF–India, says; “For effective conservation of rare carnivores reliable estimates of population density are essential for prioritizing investment and assessing the effectiveness of conservation interventions.  We used camera traps and capture–recapture analysis to provide the first reliable abundance and density estimates for the clouded leopard and common leopard in Manas National Park.”

The authors also recommend further studies of large carnivore behaviour and patterns of prey selection to discover more about co-existence in this area.

Dr Borah says; “Although lots of attention and investment is put into flagship species such as tigers in India, it is equally important that effects on other carnivores and co-predators in the region, such as common and clouded leopards, are also taken into account in conservation planning.  In an earlier study across the Transboundary Manas region we found that this could be the only landscape in the world with eight co-existing species of wild cats.”

This study is freely available for 3 weeks via this link

Featured image:

Clouded leopard image curtesy of Dr Jimmy Borah




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