Conservation and management of a generalist predator in urban India: unraveling the entangled and political geographies of humans and leopards

Authors: Emilie Edelblutte*, Boston University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Animal Geographies, Anthropocene
Keywords: conservation, wildlife management, generalist species, India
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While development and land use change is often associated with a loss of biodiversity, many generalist species adapt and flourish in human-dominated areas. The success of these populations brings humans and wildlife into more frequent contact and poses novel challenges for wildlife management. This presentation explores the need for habitat mapping and management frameworks that reflects the entangled and political geographies of humans and nonhumans. To do so, I report on the complexity of cross-jurisdictional conservation challenges in a rapidly urbanizing region in the Western Indian state of Maharashtra where the presence of a highly adaptable predator – the leopard – in and around protected areas raises several issues and concerns in terms of management of reserve, off-site conservation, and co-existence of humans and nonhumans. This presentation first examines the many ways leopards adapt their behaviour, adjust their needs and engage with different regimes of human occupation, associated with variegated socio-economic vulnerabilities and uneven power structures. It then outlines a preliminary methodology in which spatial mapping of factors such as political jurisdictions; land ownership, demographics, and socio-economic indicators (e.g. adequate facilities, access to water, and electricity) can be accounted for in scenario models along with ecological ones. By doing so, this research reinforces the need for multidisciplinary and hybrid modes of practicing conservation and wildlife management strategies more attune to (i) the multiple ecological realities of the leopards, as well as (ii) the existing social, cultural and political complexities.

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