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Conservation and management of leopards in Maharashtra: a Political Animal Geography

Authors: Emilie Edelblutte*, Boston University, Anne Short Gianotti, Boston University, Yanni Gunnell, University of Lyon
Topics: Animal Geographies
Keywords: Animal Geographies, Political Ecology, Leopards, Human-Wildlife Interactions, India, Wildlife management
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

It is now widely recognized that successful wildlife conservation and management needs to account for the socio-economic, cultural and political environments it is embedded within (Naughton-Treves and Treves 2005; Mascia et al. 2003; Treves & Karanth 2003). This recognition is coupled with recent calls to embrace the complexity of human behaviors in the management of human-wildlife interactions (Jochum et al. 2014) and to view animals as conservation actors (Jepson et al. 2011). In line with this perspective, this paper argues for the need to more deeply engage with animals as actors and the politics that surround wildlife management and conservation. Building from scholarships that advocate for approaches that more fully embrace the political processes and systems in which human and nonhumans live, interact, and influence one another (Hobson 2007, Srinavansan 2016, Karanth and Margulies 2018, Margulies & Bersaglio 2018), this paper proposes a combined approach of Animal Geographies and Political Ecology applied to the case of leopards in the Mumbai Region (India). This particular approach aims at re-framing these animals as political agents embedded within and influencing socio-economic, cultural and political environments. By doing so, this paper first discusses how the adaptation of leopards in dynamic and hybrid landscapes reveals their role as conservation actors and complicates management and conservation policies. By examining the direct and indirect politics of leopards conservation, this paper also illustrates how treating wildlife as political agents is crucial to a deeper understanding of the processes of power taking place between humans and wildlife.

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