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Livestock depredation by leopards around Chitwan National Park, Nepal


Leopards are known to prey on livestock throughout their range. Depredation of livestock makes leopards vulnerable to retaliatory killings and reduces public support for conservation. We examined spatiotemporal patterns, correlates, as well as economic losses and compensation paid for livestock depredation by leopards in buffer zone of Chitwan National Park, Nepal during 2007–2016. Records of compensation applications filed by livestock owners with the park and buffer zone authorities were collected and then triangulated through a questionnaire survey (n = 123). Of the 424 livestock that were reportedly killed by leopards, goats were disproportionately represented (87.3%), 20% more than expected from their relative livestock population, followed by pigs (8.7%) and cattle (4%). A conflict map prepared depicted "depredation hotspots" and clustering of incidents in certain parts of the area. There was a general decrease in livestock killings during the ten-year period. The killings varied significantly among years and months, but not among seasons. None of the examined factors namely, human population (abundance), livestock population (abundance), forest area in buffer zone, national park boundary (defined as the length of buffer zone user committee border abutting the park), livestock depredation by tigers, rainfall, and temperature were correlated with livestock depredation. Depredation by leopards resulted in a total economic loss of US$ 24,621 ($2462 per year) and compensation amounted to a total payment of US$ 19,719 ($1972 per year). We suggest improved husbandry practices, promotion of livestock insurance scheme, and conservation education for vulnerable communities in buffer zone.