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Factors influencing the distribution of leopard in a semiarid landscape of Western India

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Abstract

Previously, factors governing distribution of leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) in forest habitats of the Indian subcontinent were unknown. The present study assessed the influence of different ecogeographic variables determining the distribution of leopards in and around Sariska Tiger Reserve through MaxEnt habitat suitability model based on camera trapping method. Camera trapping was used to collect presence/absence information in the study area from December 2008 to June 2010. Information of 11 macrohabitat characteristics and variables (habitat types, prey species, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), elevation, livestock, village, water source, etc.) were collected along with leopard presence data. The probability of presence of leopards increased with decreasing distance to water and increasing encounter rate of peafowl (Pavo cristatus), chital (Axis axis), sambar (Rusa unicolor), and wild pig (Sus scrofa). It was found that the probability of presence of leopards increased with increasing area of Zizyphus mixed forest patches and NDVI. Results of this study showed that the probability of presence of leopards was higher in habitat types with intermediate cover, high wild prey base, and water sources. They also indicated that leopards are not always ‘generalists’ showing some degree of specialization, at least in their choice of habitat, and this information is useful for conserving leopard in human-dominated landscapes.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Rajasthan Forest Department for granting permission to work in Sariska, as part of ‘Ecology of Leopard’ project conducted by Wildlife Institute of India (WII). We thank the director and dean, WII for encouragement and support they provided for the study. We thank Sutirtha Dutta and Swati for helping in data analysis. We thank our field assistants, Jairam, Omi, and Ramesh, for their assistance in the field.

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Correspondence to Krishnendu Mondal.

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Communicated by: Krzysztof Schmidt

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Mondal, K., Sankar, K. & Qureshi, Q. Factors influencing the distribution of leopard in a semiarid landscape of Western India. Acta Theriol 58, 179–187 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-012-0109-6

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