The photograph shows a group of men surrounding a dead leopard. The news headline is ‘Human-leopard conflicts increase’. Macho men like to demonstrate their courage and skill in killing leopards who wander into urban environments. This is where a lot of the direct human-leopard conflict takes place. You see many disturbing pictures of leopards surrounded by men throwing stones at them and beating them with sticks. Or leopards jumping over walls in housing estates in India being chased by people with sticks. It is horrible.
In the long term there is no chance for the leopard, one of the big cats. But they aren’t that big. Yes, they are tough and strong but not the same as tigers and lions. A mob of men can kill a single leopard quite easily without anyone being injured.
One problem is the leopard’s reputation. Leopards that attack and kill people are very rare considering the proximity of the two species but the news stories stick in the mind. Back on 2002 Fiona Sunquist writing in Wild Cats Of The World reports on a newspaper, Rising Nepal, reporting that ‘local people had stoned to death a leopard which had killed a man collecting wood in a forest in western Nepal’. There is this fear by both parties and underlying war between leopards and people in Asia. Leopards are normally nocturnal to avoid people their greatest threat.
When people come into conflict with leopards as they inevitably will because of human population growth and expanding human settlements and farming, the leopard will die because the cat kills livestock and is killed in retaliation or the people are simple scared and as mentioned macho men want to demonstrate their macho credentials.
Despite having the widest distribution of all the wild cats, the leopard is considered vulnerable to extinction in the wild and it is hardly surprising.
The leopard’s conflict with humans can be manifested in a direct way as described above or indirectly. Farmers clear the leopard’s habitat. This reduces prey for the leopard. The leopard kills livestock to survive. Farmers retaliate and kill the leopard. Recent reports from northern Iraq indicates that these leopard killings will cause their extinction in that area of their range. Leopards are also trophy hunted by wealthy Americans primarily.
There are many photos showing the death of a leopard or a leopard in the process of being killed by people. All of it is caused by the inevitable population growth of people leaving the leopard no choice but to come into conflict with its greatest threat where and when it inevitably dies.
There appears to be no attempt by people to find a humane solution; one which protects the leopard and the human and their livestock. The only response that people come up with in Asia is to kill the cat. Pretty crude I’d say.
SOME MORE ON LEOPARDS: