Human wildlife interactions

Today human-wildlife conflict is an issue that has gained a lot of importance globally and nationally. While it negatively affects both humans and wildlife, many of the latter are endangered and threatened. WCS-India’s work with leopards has been on the forefront of this field of knowledge, with its continuous study of not just the ecology of the wildlife, but also how humans react and respond to the presence of the wildlife in human-use landscapes. 

The Indian Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) in a human dominated landscape

The leopard project has its origins in a study on the reasons for attacks on humans in a rural landscape in Maharashtra almost two decades ago. Today, it has evolved into a full-fledged program not only using tools such as telemetry and camera trapping but also putting emphasis on the humans that are affected and involved. In line with the WCS vision, we have contributed to the resolution of severe human leopard conflict in the urban landscape of Mumbai, in the areas adjoining Sanjay Gandhi National Park and continue to support the project even today, almost a decade after it’s inception.


SGNP forest merging into the city


Our work also focuses on the human dimension of human-wildlife interactions, trying to understand what affects people's acceptance of the presence of large potentially dangerous wildlife in their landscape. This has called for a collaborative approach with the state Forest Department, the media as well as the citizens in our study area, be it rural or urban. We firmly believe that the identification and involvement of major stakeholders is key to the success of any conservation program.


A leopard captured on a camera-trap


We have collaborated extensively with the forest departments in multiple states, such as Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal on the same issues. Our work has been used in the formulation of guidelines for human-leopard conflict management at the state as well as the central Ministry of Environment and Forests levels.


WCS-India team interacting with village rescue teams and Uttarakhand forest officials at a rescue centre in Manikdoh, Jinnar


In addition to disseminating our learnings and experiences from our work, we have worked extensively with the media across Indian states to increase sensitivity and understanding of the complexities of human-wildlife interactions, and the importance of maintaining the cultural tolerance that we see today. Assessments of the impact our work has had on the nature of media reportage found that media is more than willing to help to ease tensions and ultimately reduce human-leopard conflict.



Current projects

  • Research and conservation of elephants and leopards that share spaces with humans in the tea-garden landscapes of West Bengal 
  • Research and conservation of leopards in the urban landscape of Mumbai 
  • Collaborating with conservationists in Uttarakhand (Titli Trust), the Uttarakhand Forest Department and Maharashtra Forest Department to share best practices in conflict resolution


Past projects

  • Using Children Ambassadors to spread awareness about safety measures to be taken by farmers in the cropland landscapes of Pune, Ahmednagar and Nashik districts 
  • Studying the human-wolf interactions in the semi arid landscapes of Maharashtra and Karnataka 
  • Studying human-leopard interactions, related to attacks on people by leopards in Himachal Pradesh 
  • Studying patterns of human-leopard interactions in Punjab 
  • Studying patterns of human-leopard interactions in Rajasthan 
  • Studying the social institution of Waghoba, the large cat deity, in Western Maharashtra


Program Partner





An Evening with Bianca – The leopard who attended the Aarti and Azaan

It was a winter evening from Aarey milk colony. Well, we Mumbaikars like to call “winter” any day when we receive some relief from the heat. Honestly, I don’t remember stepping out in a sweater for school. But, that has never been the case with the people in Aarey. 

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In Mumbai, Leopards Are Citizens Too

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, in the heart of one of the world's most dense cities, is unique as a haven for wildlife, including leopards.

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  •  Surve N, Satyakumar S, Sankar K, Jathanna D, Gupta V, Athreya A. 2022. Leopards in the City: The Tale of Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Two Protected Areas in and Adjacent to Mumbai, India. Frontiers. 
  • Nair R, Dhee, Patil O, Surve N, Andheria A, Linnel J, Athreya V. 2021. Sharing Spaces and Entanglements With Big Cats: The Warli and Their Waghoba in Maharashtra, India. Frontiers. 
  • Athreya V, Isvaran K, Odden M, Linnell JDC, Kshettry A, Krishnaswamy J, Karanth UK. 2020. The impact of leopards (Panthera pardus) on livestock losses and human injuries in a human-use landscape in Maharashtra, India. PeerJ 8:e8405
  • Kshettry, A., Vaidyanathan, S., Sukumar, R., Athreya, V., 2020. Looking beyond protected areas: Identifying conservation compatible landscapes in agro-forest mosaics in north- eastern India. Global Ecology and Conservation. 
  • MajgaonkarI, Vaidyanathan S, Srivathsa A, Shivakumar S, Limaye S, Athreya V. 2019 Distortion of inferences and undue exaggeration of study limitations: Response to Shrotriya et al. Conservation Science and Practice. 
  • I. Majgaonkar, S. Vaidyanathan, A. Srivathsa, S. Shivakumar, S. Limaye, V. Athreya. 2019. Land-sharing potential of large carnivores in human-modified landscapes of western India. Conservation Science and Practice, 1 (2019), p. e34.
  • Dhee D, Athreya V, Linnell JDC, Shivkumar S, Dhiman SP. 2019. The leopard that learnt from the cat and other narratives of carnivore–human coexistence in northern India. People and Nature. 00:1–11.
  • A co-author on ——-Hofman MPG, Hayward MW, Heim M, Marchand P, Rolandsen CM, Mattisson J, et al. 2019. Right on track? Performance of satellite telemetry in terrestrial wildlife research. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0216223.





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Photo Copyright: Kalyan Varma, Steve Winter, Nikit Surve
Illustration: Aditi Rajan






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