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LA Mountain Lion and Mumbai Leopard, two big cats in the urban jungle

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Los Angelesand Mumbai, India share many of the finest in movies, fashion and traffic jams. However, another similarity lies in the shadows, most of which can be seen walking quietly on four legs at night.

These big cities are the only big cities in the world with over 10 million breeding, hunting and within the boundaries of the city where large felines (one is a mountain lion and the other is a leopard). Prosper by maintaining the territory in.

Long-term studies in both cities looked at how large cats roam the city's jungle and how people are best suited to live with them. This is a lesson that may be applicable to more locations in the coming decades.


"In the future, there will be more such cities as cities. Let's see, the area invades more natural habitats, "said Audra Huffmeier, a biologist studying Mountain Lion at the University of California, Los Angeles. "If we want to keep these big carnivores on earth, we have to learn to live with them."

A leopard is seen walking across a ridge in Aarey colony near Sanjay Gandhi National Park overlooking Mumbai city, India.

Near San Jai Gandhi National Park overlooking the city of Mumbai, India, where you can see leopards walking along the ridges of the Aarey Colony. (Nikit Surve, Wildlife Conservation Society – India / Sanjay Gandhi National Park via AP)

Highways and fragmented habitats

Twenty years ago, scientists in Los Angeles put a pursuit collar on their first cat, a large male mountain lion called the P1. The cat protected a large area of ​​the Santa Monica Mountains, a coastal area adjacent to the city.

"P1 was as big as you would get inSouthern California, about 150 pounds," said a National Park Service ecologist who was part of this effort. Seth Riley says. "These dominant males are breeding males. They do not tolerate other adult males in their area."

Using GPS tracking and camera traps, scientists P1 We tracked the rise and fall of the dynasty for seven years through multiple companions and kitten scraps. "2009 was the last time we knew something about P1," Riley said. "There must have been a fight. We found his collar and blood on the rock, and never met him again. He was quite old."

Since then, Riley has helped to collar another 100 mountain lions in Los Angeles, helping to understand the areas cats need, what cats eat (mainly deer), and frequency. I have built a huge database of. They cross the road with people and what may jeopardize their future.

As with the kings of medieval Europe, the greatest threat turned out to be inbreeding. By living in a small territory separated by highways, some males began to mate with daughters and granddaughters who could not naturally disperse far away. It led to genetic problems such as fertility problems and tail twisting.

"We know that P1 mated with his daughter P6-based on genetic analysis-it was the first case we recorded for this very close inbreeding. It was an analysis, "Riley said.

Cityscape Leopard

In Mumbai, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, leopards are also packed. About 50 are ideally adapted to the space. Suitable for 20. Still, I can hardly see nocturnal cats.

"These animals are so secretive that you don't know much about them. You can't just observe them," said the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society of India. , Said Vidya Athlaya, who is part of the research team. Recently, I put a tracking collar on five leopards.

The central area of ​​the leopard is centered around San Jai Gandhi National Park. Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a protected area surrounded on three sides by an urbanized landscape, including an area of ​​100,000 people and nearly 12 leopards.

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Researchers from Park Managers Worked on a specific question. Cats cross a busy road near the park.

To get the answer, they wore a big man called a maharaja. They found that it walked primarily at night and crossed more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) in about a week from one park in Mumbai to another nearby park. The leopard used the same location to cross a busy state road three times. I also crossed the railroad track.

The path chosen by Maharaja is near the new highway and freight railroad under construction. Researchers said knowing the highway crossing habits of big cats helps policy makers make informed decisions about where to build animal underpasses to reduce accidents. ..

A mountain lion eats a kill at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area near Malibu Creek State Park.

Mountain lion eats murder at Santa Monica Mountains National A recreation area near Malibu Creek State Park. (National Park Service via AP)

Living with a large cat

Long-term mountain in Los Angeles Studies showing the harm of lion fragmented habitats have helped the campaign to build a wildlife crossing bridge over US National Highway 101, one of the city's busiest highways. Constructionbegan on April 22nd at.

When completed in three years, the bridge will be covered with native vegetation and will include special noise barriers to minimize interference with animal light and noise at night. Connect the Santa Monica Mountains to Simi Hills and expand the dating pool of resident mountain lions.

But learning to live with a cat is not only an infrastructure decision, but also a matter of human choice and education.

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Asleya coexists with a Mumbai leopard When she first started advocating, she faced skepticism and opposition from other biologists and policy makers. They thought it was impossible or worse for a big cat to live with people without a lot of friction.

"The dominant story was about conflict," she said. But she helped promote the conversation about "negotiation, improving the situation for both wildlife and people."

It does not mean that living with a large predator is not dangerous. In Mumbai, when Purvi Lote was five, he saw her first leopard on the porch of her relatives' house. Frightened, she ran back to her mother. But now, a 9-year-old kid says he's not too afraid of big cats.

Like other children, she never goes outdoors alone after dark. To prevent leopards from being surprised, even children and adults travel in groups at night and play music from the phone. But according to young people, the most basic rule is, "Don't worry when you see a leopard."

A mountain lion is seen "cheek-rubbing," leaving her scent on a log in the Verdugo Mountains with Glendale and the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles. 

The mountain lion "rubs his cheeks" You can see it. She left her scent on the logs of the Verdugo Mountains, where the skyscrapers of downtown Glendale and Los Angeles are located.  (National Park Service via AP)

Avoiding deadly collisions

The Mumbai leopardwas primarily adapted to have frequent garbage dumps outside the forest and to hunt wild dogs that attack people when cornered or attacked. However, in 2010, 20 people in Mumbai were killed in the leopard attack, said Jagannath Kumble, a Mumbai protected forest employee.

The turning point was the recognition that the understaffed Forest Department could not continue to respond to individual attacks by capturing and transporting leopards into the forest after they returned. Instead, I decided to focus on making people coexist with predators.

Officials who participated in volunteers, non-governmental groups and the media for public education programs in 2011. Since then, the death toll has steadily declined and no one has been killed in attacks since 2017.

The last known victim was Muttu Veli's 4-year-old daughter Darshini. Veri, a salaryman who came to Mumbai in 1996, said Darsini was playing outside her house in a slum on the edge of the forest and she never returned home. Eventually, her injured body recovered.

"My daughter has died. She won't come back," he said.

In Los Angeles, there were no human deaths due to mountain lions, but in 2021 there was one non-fatal attack on a child.

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Both cities catch, kill, or move cats. I learned that what you do is not the answer.

"Migration and killing exacerbate the conflict," said Besprat, California Regional Director of the National Wildlife Federation. ""

She said avoidance is the safest strategy. "These big cats are shy. They tend to avoid contact with humans as much as possible. They are the extreme introversions of the animal kingdom."