Leopard numbers are rising in parts of India. It is both welcome news and a source of strife.
The big cats, though a threatened species, are occasionally killed in retaliation for taking the lives of humans or livestock, to the applause of villagers and the dismay of conservationists.
To help mitigate this conflict, the Wildlife Conservation Society hopes to shed light on what leopards eat. By sifting through remains in cat scat, the biologists found that most of the animals' diet were domestic animals - though pet animals, not livestock. Dogs represented nearly 40 percent of the leopard diet and cats made up 15 percent, the researchers reported in the journal Oryx. Cows, goats and other livestock, on the other hand, comprises less than a fifth of the prey on the leopard menu.
The WCS writes that the "human-leopard 'conflict' is more likely to be related to people's fears of leopards foraging in the proximity of their houses and the sentimental value of dogs as pets."
Across Asia and Africa, conservation groups like WCS and Pantera are working to stanch the numbers of leopards killed by commercial hunters. Through Pantera's Munyawana Leopard Project, for example, leopards in parts of Africa have longer lives and raise more cubs.