Skip to main content Accesibility Help

A cat among the dogs: leopard Panthera pardus diet in a human-dominated landscape in western Maharashtra, India

  • Vidya Athreya (a1), Morten Odden (a2), John D. C. Linnell (a3), Jagdish Krishnaswamy (a4) and K. Ullas Karanth (a1)...

The ecology and predator–prey dynamics of large felids in the tropics have largely been studied in natural systems where wild ungulates constitute the majority of the prey base. However, human-dominated landscapes can be rich in potential prey for large carnivores because of the high density of domestic animals, especially in tropical countries where pastoralism is an important livelihood activity. We report the almost complete dependence of leopards Panthera pardus on domestic animals as prey in the crop lands of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, India. From analysis of 85 confirmed leopard scats, 87% of the leopard's prey biomass consisted of domestic animals, with 39% consisting of domestic dogs Canis lupus familiaris alone. The only wild species that occurred in the leopard's diet were rodents, small indian civet Viverricula indica, bonnet macaque Macaca radiata and other primates Semnopithecus spp., mongoose Herpestes spp., and birds. Interviews conducted in 77 households distributed randomly in the study area documented a high density of domestic animals: adult cattle Bos taurus, calves, goats Capra aegagrus, dogs and cats Felis catus occurred at densities of 169, 54, 174, 24 and 61 per km2, respectively. Ivlev's electivity index indicated that dogs and cats were over-represented in the leopard's diet, given the higher densities of goats and cattle. The standing biomass of dogs and cats alone was sufficient to sustain the high density of carnivores at the study site. Our results show that the abundance of potential domestic prey biomass present in human-use areas supports a relatively high density of predators, although this interaction could result in conflict with humans.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      A cat among the dogs: leopard Panthera pardus diet in a human-dominated landscape in western Maharashtra, India
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      A cat among the dogs: leopard Panthera pardus diet in a human-dominated landscape in western Maharashtra, India
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      A cat among the dogs: leopard Panthera pardus diet in a human-dominated landscape in western Maharashtra, India
      Available formats
Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Hide All
Ackerman, B.B., Lindzey, F.G. & Hemker, T.P. (1984) Cougar food habits in southern Utah. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 48, 147155.
Andheria, A.P., Karanth, K.U. & Kumar, N.S. (2007) Diet and prey profiles of three sympatric large carnivores in Bandipur Tiger Reserve, India. Journal of Zoology, 273, 169175.
Athreya, V., Odden, M., Linnell, J.D.C., Krishnaswamy, J. & Karanth, K.U. (2013) Big cats in our backyards: persistence of large carnivores in a human dominated landscape in India. PLoS ONE, 8(3), e57872.
Beckmann, J.P. & Berger, J. (2003) Rapid ecological and behavioural changes in carnivores: the responses of black bears (Ursus americanus) to altered food. Journal of Zoology, 261, 207212.
Beckmann, J.P. & Lackey, C.W. (2008) Carnivores, urban landscapes, and longitudinal studies: a case history of black bears. Human–Wildlife Conflicts, 2, 168174.
Bino, G., Dolev, A., Yosha, D., Guter, A., King, R., Saltz, D. & Kark, S. (2010) Abrupt spatial and numerical responses of overabundant foxes to a reduction in anthropogenic resources. Journal of Applied Ecology, 47, 12621271.
Boitani, L. & Powell, R.A. (eds) (2012) Carnivore Ecology and Conservation: A Handbook of Techniques. Oxford University Press, New York, USA.
Boomgaard, P. (2001) Frontiers of Fear: Tigers and People in the Malay World, 1600–1950. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Carbone, C. & Gittleman, J.L. (2002) A common rule for the scaling of carnivore density. Science, 295, 22732276.
Carbone, C., Pettorelli, N. & Stephens, P.A. (2010) The bigger they come, the harder they fall: body size and prey abundance influence predator–prey ratios. Biology Letters, 7, 312315.
Census of India (2011) Http:// [accessed 24 May 2014].
Daniel, J.C. (2009) The Leopard in India: A Natural History. Natraj Publishers, Dehradun, India.
Diamond, J. (2002) Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication. Nature, 418, 700707.
Dickman, A.J. (2010) Complexities of conflict: the importance of considering social factors for effectively resolving human–wildlife conflict. Animal Conservation, 13, 458466.
Edgaonkar, A. & Chellam, R. (2002) Food habit of the leopard, Panthera pardus, in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Maharashtra, India. Mammalia, 66, 353360.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2005) Livestock Sector Brief: India. [accessed 15 January 2013].
Farrell, L.E., Roman, J. & Sunquist, M.E. (2000) Dietary separation of sympatric carnivores identified by molecular analysis of scats. Molecular Ecology, 9, 15831590.
Fuller, T.K. & Sievert, P.R. (2001) Carnivore demography and the consequences of changes in prey availability. In Carnivore Conservation (eds Gittleman, J.L., Funk, S.M., Macdonald, D.W. & Wayne, R.K.), pp. 163178. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Gehrt, S.D., Riley, S.P.D. & Cypher, B.L. (eds) (2010) Urban Carnivores: Ecology, Conflict and Conservation. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.
Hughes, J. & Macdonald, D.W. (2013) A review of the interactions between free-roaming domestic dogs and wildlife. Biological Conservation, 157, 341351.
Hunter, L. (2011) Carnivores of the World (Princeton Field Guides). Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA.
Inskip, C. & Zimmermann, A. (2009) Human–felid conflict: a review of patterns and priorities worldwide. Oryx, 43, 1834.
Ivlev, V.S. (1961) Experimental Ecology of the Feeding of Fishes. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Jhala, Y.V. & Giles, R.H. (1991) The status and conservation of the wolf in Gujarat and Rajasthan, India. Conservation Biology, 5, 476483.
Karanth, K.U. & Gopal, R. (2005) An ecology-based policy framework for human–tiger coexistence in India. In People and Wildlife: Conflict Or Co-existence? (eds Woodroffe, R., Thirgood, S. & Rabinowitz, A.), pp. 373387. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Karanth, K.U. & Nichols, J.D. (2010) Non-invasive survey methods for assessing tiger populations. In Tigers of the World: The Science, Politics and Conservation of Panthera tigris (eds Tilson, R.L. & Nyhus, P.J.), pp. 241262. Elsevier, New York, USA.
Karanth, K.U., Nichols, J.D., Kumar, N.S., Link, W.A. & Hines, J.E. (2004) Tigers and their prey: predicting carnivore densities from prey abundance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101, 48544858.
Karanth, K.U. & Sunquist, M.E. (1995) Prey selection by tiger, leopard and dhole in tropical forests. Journal of Animal Ecology, 64, 439450.
Khorozyan, I.G., Malkhasyan, A.G. & Abramov, A.V. (2008) Presence–absence surveys of prey and their use in predicting leopard (Panthera pardus) densities: a case study from Armenia. Integrative Zoology, 3, 322332.
Klare, U., Kamler, J.F. & Macdonald, D.W. (2011) A comparison and critique of different scat-analysis methods for determining carnivore diet. Mammal Review, 41, 294312.
Linnell, J., Odden, J. & Mertens, A. (2012) Mitigation methods for conflicts associated with carnivore depredation on livestock. In Carnivore Ecology and Conservation: A Handbook of Techniques (eds Boitani, L. & Powell, R.A.), pp. 314332. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Livestock Census (2003) Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Planning Department, Government of Maharashtra, Mumbai, India.
Loveridge, A.J., Wang, S.W., Frank, L.G. & Seidensticker, J. (2010) People and wild felids: conservation of cats and management of conflicts. In The Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids (eds Macdonald, D.W. & Loveridge, A.J.), pp. 161198. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Marker, L.L. & Dickman, A.J. (2005) Factors affecting leopard (Panthera pardus) spatial ecology, with particular reference to Namibian farmlands. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 35, 105115.
Meena, V., Jhala, Y.V., Chellam, R. & Pathak, B. (2011) Implications of diet composition of Asiatic lions for their conservation. Journal of Zoology, 284, 6067.
Mizutani, F. (1999) Biomass density of wild and domestic herbivores and carrying capacity on a working ranch in Laikipia District, Kenya. African Journal of Ecology, 37, 226240.
Mondol, S., Ramesh, N., Athreya, V., Sunagar, K., Selvaraj, V.M. & Ramakrishnan, U. (2009) A panel of microsatellites to individually identify leopards, and its application to leopard monitoring in human-dominated landscapes. BMC Genetics, 10, 7985.
Mondol, S., Thatte, P., Yadav, P. & Ramakrishnan, U. (2011) A set of mini STRs for population genetic analyses of tigers (Panthera tigris) with cross-species amplification for seven other Felidae. Conservation Genetics Resources, 4, 6366.
Mukherjee, S., Goyal, S.P. & Chellam, R. (1994) Standardisation of scat analysis techniques for leopard (Panthera pardus) in Gir National Park, Western India. Mammalia, 58, 139143.
Mukherjee, S. & Mishra, C. (2001) Predation by leopard Panthera pardus in Majhatal Harsang Wildlife Sanctuary, W. Himalayas. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 98, 267268.
Negrões, N., Revilla, E., Fonseca, C., Soares, A.M.V.M., Jácomo, A.T.A. & Silveira, L. (2011) Private forest reserves can aid in preserving the community of medium and large-sized vertebrates in the Amazon arc of deforestation. Biodiversity Conservation, 20, 505518.
Odden, M. & Wegge, P. (2009) Kill rates and food consumption of leopards in Bardia National Park, Nepal. Acta Theriologica, 54, 2330.
Punjabi, G.A., Athreya, V. & Linnell, J.D.C. (2012) Using natural marks to estimate free-ranging dog Canis familiaris abundance in a MARK–RESIGHT framework in suburban Mumbai, India. Tropical Conservation Science, 5, 510520.
Schaller, G.B. (1983) Mammals and their biomass on a Brazilian ranch. Arquivos de Zoologia, 31, 136.
Seidensticker, J., Sunquist, M. & McDougal, C. (1990) Leopards living at the edge of the Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. In Conservation in Developing Countries: Problems and Prospects (eds Daniel, J.C. & Serrao, J.S.), pp. 415423. Oxford University Press, Bombay, India.
Sekhar, N.U. (1998) Crop and livestock depredation caused by wild animals in protected areas: the case of Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India. Environmental Conservation, 25, 160171.
Shah, G.M., Jan, U., Bhat, B.A., Ahmad, F. & Ahmad, J. (2009) Food habits of the leopard Panthera pardus in Dachigam National Park, Kashmir, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 1, 184185.
Shilpi, G., Krishnendu, M., Shankar, K. & Qamar, Q. (2009) Estimation of striped hyaena Hyaena hyaena population using camera traps in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 106, 284288.
Singh, P., Gopalaswamy, A.M. & Karanth, K.U. (2010) Factors influencing densities of striped hyenas (Hyaena hyaena) in arid regions of India. Journal of Mammalogy, 91, 11521159.
Thornton, P.K., Kruska, R.L., Henninger, N., Kristjanson, P.M., Reid, R.S., Atieno, F. et al. (2002) Mapping Poverty and Livestock in the Developing World. Http:// [accessed 15 January 2013].
Treves, A. & Karanth, K.U. (2003) Human–carnivore conflict and perspectives on carnivore management worldwide. Conservation Biology, 17, 14911499.
Treves, A., Wallace, R.B., Naughton-Treves, L. & Morales, A. (2006) Co-managing human–wildlife conflicts: a review. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 11, 383396.
Vijayan, S. & Pati, B.P. (2002) Impact of changing cropping patterns on man–animal conflicts around Gir Protected Area with specific reference to Talala Sub-District, Gujarat, India. Population and Environment, 23, 541559.
Wegge, P., Odden, M., Pokharel, C.P. & Storaas, T. (2009) Predator–prey relationships and responses of ungulates and their predators to the establishment of protected areas: a case study of tigers, leopards and their prey in Bardia National Park, Nepal. Biological Conservation, 142, 189202.
Woodroffe, R., Thirgood, S. & Rabinowitz, A. (2005) The impact of human–wildlife conflict on natural systems. In People and Wildlife: Conflict or Co-Existence? (eds Woodroffe, R., Thirgood, S. & Rabinowitz, A.), pp. 112. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Yirga, G., De Iongh, H.H., Leirs, H., Gebrihiwot, K., Deckers, J. & Bauer, H. (2012) Adaptability of large carnivores to changing anthropogenic food sources: diet change of spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) during Christian fasting period in northern Ethiopia. Journal of Animal Ecology, 81, 10521055.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed