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Understanding human leopard conflict in Nepal

Camera traps have recently been installed in the forests of Nepal as part of a new study trying to gain a greater understanding into human leopard conflict. This new initiative comes in the wake of a spate of attacksin Bahnu Municipality, which have resulted in 10 children losing their lives and a further six being injured. Authorities hope footage from these cameras will provide fresh insight into what is driving these leopards to attack children.

Early reports from this project suggest 25 leopards have been identified, this is really valuable information and will be useful when researchers try to determine whether there is sufficient access to food. However, it is not yet clear which of these individuals have been involved in conflict or what is causing them to behave this way. These are, after all, complex issues, and there may be several factors involved, not all of which may be detected via cameras.

In 2021 WVI are hoping to complement existing efforts, such as these, by assisting with the veterinary assessment of animals involved inattacks like these. Some people may feel that a leopard which attacks a child does not deserve medical attention and instead should be locked away for everyone’s safety, or maybe even that it should be caught and killed. This point of view is understandable, particularly if you knew the child concerned. But our hope is that by conducting detailed health assessments we may be able to determine why some of these animals are behaving the way they are in the first place. Perhaps they have a broken toe, after being caught in a snare, and now they find it difficult catch their normal prey. Or maybe they have been infected with Canine Distemper Virus which has spread to their brain and altered their behaviour. Who knows? The answer right now is no one does for sure.

Right now, our team are planning their approach and working out how to make the most of your generous donations. This project is a massive undertaking and will involve UK wildlife veterinarian Jess Bodgener relocating to Nepal for two years to work alongside Dr Amir Sadaula and his team at the National Trust for Nature Conservation's new Wildlife Hospital, so getting the planning right really matters.

There are lots of exciting aspects to this project which we will start sharing with you soon, so keep an eye out for our project updates. Please sign up to our newsletter here.

Photo credit: Srikaanth Sekar