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Wild boars are top prey of Leopards in Goa

Wild boars, a species which the Goa government wants classified as 'vermin', are a major prey for leopards in Goa's wild as well as habitation fringe areas, a study conducted by the Goa Forest department and the Goa University's Zoology department has revealed. The study conducted in both protected forest areas as well as human dominated areas has also revealed that domesticated animals do not constitute a major part of leopards' diet, despite the increasing trend of leopards straying into inhabited areas over the last few years.

"It can be interpreted from our data that although leopards were reported close to human habitations throughout the year, their dependence on domestic animals was low," said the study by Bipin S. Phal Desai, Avelyno D'Costa, M.K. Praveen Kumar and S.K. Shyama.

"This study also indicates that the wild species that the leopards preyed upon in protected areas were also present in forested areas close to human habitations. This could be the reason for the presence of leopards in human-dominated areas with a low dependence on domestic animals," it added.

Leopard standing on a tree branch. Photo by Bibake Uppal on Unsplash

"Scat analysis of 55 scats collected from these areas revealed that wild boar constituted a major proportion of the prey biomass (29 per cent), followed by chital (25 per cent), Indian Crested porcupine (15 per cent), barking deer (13 per cent), grey langur (5.6 per cent), Bonnet macaque (5.4 per cent), sambar (4.1 per cent), and Indian hare (3.1 per cent)," the study said.

The diet profile analysis suggests that leopards preferred small-sized prey, which accounted for 77 per cent of its diet, while medium-sized prey and large-sized prey accounted for 33 per cent and 1.1 per cent only.

"Domestic animals (dog, pig, cat and goat) constituted only a minor portion (33 per cent) of the leopard's diet. The dog was the most preyed-upon domestic animal (17 per cent) followed by pig (11 per cent), goat (2.7 per cent), and cat (2 per cent). Of the nine wild prey species observed from scat analysis, six were identified in scats collected from human-dominated areas," the study added.

It also said most of the incidents of human-animal conflict involving leopards occurred during the species' pre-breeding season which stretched through August to October, which triggers movement of the wild cats into normally uncharted territories.

"This pattern correlates with the breeding pattern of leopards when wandering males and sub-adult cubs (which have just left their mothers to fend for themselves) come in conflict with humans," the study added.

"The conflict during January and February could be mainly due to the movement of females in the post-birth phase. These leopards, which continuously change their location for the safety of the young cubs, come in contact with humans employed in cashew plantations and other agricultural activities," it said.

Deforestation has been a leading cause for increased animal-human encounters. Photo by gryffyn m on Unsplash

Rapid deforestation and urbanization have led to increasing human-wild animal conflict throughout the state.

Recently, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told the state Assembly that the Goa government was in the process of planting fruit bearing trees in forest areas and other land available for plantations to prevent wild animals from entering human habitation.

Some years ago peacocks featured on the state Agriculture Ministry's wish-list of vermin species along with monkeys and bisons, with farmers claiming the species were damaging crops extensively. While peacock is the national bird, the bison is the state animal.


Keywords: Wild Boar, prey, Leopard, Goa, wildlife, urbanization


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