The business world is sometimes described figuratively as dog eat dog. In the state of Maharashtra in western India the situation is literally cat eat dog. Where the cats are leopards and the dogs are, well, dogs. That’s the finding of a Wildlife Conservation Society study published in the journal Oryx. [Vidya Athreya et al, A cat among the dogs: leopard Panthera pardus diet in a human-dominated landscape in western Maharashtra, India]
The paper points out that big cat ecology and predator prey interactions in tropical regions are typically studied in natural systems. The majority of the prey in those cases are ungulates: think zebras or deer. But in human-dominated areas, especially agricultural ones, you can have large populations of domesticated animals—a big attraction for any hungry wildlife.
Researchers examined 85 leopard scats, because that’s how you do this kind of research. And 87 percent of the prey biomass they recovered was from domestic animals, with nearly half of that coming
from dogs, many of them presumably feral.
Livestock make up only a small part of the leopard diet. For example, goats outnumber dogs seven to one, but are just 11 percent of meals for the cats, probably because they’re penned in at night. Those numbers are good news because they may calm farmers’ fears about losses of agriculturally valuable species. Of course, it’s not good news for the dogs.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]