Learning to live with tigers and leopards in Kanha

Attacks by tigers and leopards on livestock cause devastating losses to owners at the Kanha Tiger Reserve, yet villagers rarely retaliate. Stewardship by local people may be the secret to saving big cats in the wild. Text & photographs

Tigers and leopards kill equal numbers of livestock in the Kanha Tiger Reserve.

A livestock owner crouches by his goat, killed by a leopard while grazing in the lantana shrubs behind his home.

A livestock owner points to a tiger pug mark located near his dead cow. Evidence like this, proof of an attack by a wild carnivore, is required in order for owners to receive financial compensation from the Forest Department.

Tiger scratches on a cow’s leg. Because this fatally injured cow returned home, the owner cannot legally receive compensation.

The author surveys the remains of a cow killed and eaten by a tiger near the Kanha tourist gate.

Although they rarely attack villagers in Kanha, leopards often enter the enclosures adjacent to people’s homes at night to kill livestock. A leopard jumped through the small crevice below the roof of this bamboo enclosure and killed a goat.

A female leopard prowls around a fresh goat kill. Mothers with cubs are considered more likely to attack livestock in order to fulfil the high nutrient needs of their young.

Financial incentives such as livestock compensation are critical for enabling coexistence between people, livestock and wildlife. This image shows a tiger pug mark framed within cattle dung, a visual symbol that cohabitation is possible.

The tiger's large, muscular body enables it to kill cattle and buffaloes, whereas the smaller leopard more commonly attacks goats, pigs and young cattle.

Kanha beat guards trace a tiger’s pug marks near a freshly killed bull as evidence for a livestock compensation report.

To discourage villagers from poisoning carcasses and retaliating against large cats, the Forest Department burns livestock kills immediately after collecting evidence for compensation.

Cows in Kanha are left to graze without a herder for most of the year when crops are not in the field.

Sambar grazing in the tiger reserve.

A jackal pauses while hunting.

A python exposes itself for a rare sighting.

A banyan tree at the entrance of the tiger reserve.

Peacock dance on a road in the tiger reserve.

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Tigers and leopards kill equal numbers of livestock in the Kanha Tiger Reserve.


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