It’s not just the farm-dogs that is farmer’s best friend. A study in Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary – located about 58 kilometres away from Nagpur and spread over 180 sqkm – has found how important tigers and leopards too are for the farmers, who worry about protecting their crops from the depredations of herbivores.The scientific study of fecal samples of three major carnivores – tigers, leopards and wild dogs – in the sanctuary to determine their prey selection pattern has pointed to how blue bulls (nilgais) and wild boars, which damage crops, form a substantial part of the prey of tigers and leopards.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The study, conducted by Prajakta Hoshangabadkar, a junior research fellow with the Pench Tiger Conservation Foundation, analysed 24 tiger droppings along with those of leopards (11 samples) and wild dogs (five) in the sanctuary located near Nagpur.Of the 24 tiger samples analysed, 13 contained nilgai hair, followed by chital (five), wild boar (three), cattle (two) and sambhar (one). Nilgai hair also figured in four leopard samples, followed by chital (three), wild boar (two) and one each of sambar and cattle. Chital (three) and sambar (two) accounted for the prey of wild dogs.The scat analysis revealed that while smaller carnivores (wild dogs) were almost 100% dependent on deer species like sambar and chital, a large number of nilgai hair was found in tiger and leopard fecal samples. This proves that a healthy presence of carnivores helps regulate numbers of herbivores like blue bulls who damage the standing crops of farmers on the periphery of forests.”Where there is a healthy presence of carnivores, the herbivore population is under check… Otherwise, these nilgai and wild boars would have gone into fields which adjoin the sanctuary and damaged crops,” said a senior forest department official. “They also prevent the numbers of nilgai from increasing, which in turn, would have led to greater crop damage,” he added.The study pointed to how carnivores were feeding on nilgai, other deer species and wild boar and were not dependent on cattle reared by people from adjoining villages as it was believed.Umred-Karhandla presently has one male, three females and nine sub-adult tigers apart from eight leopards, as identified in camera traps.”Where there are no predators, there is a problem,” the official noted. Lack of density of prey like wild boar also led to leopards lifting dogs for food.”Tigers also provide employment to locals. No tigers means no tourists and no tourists means no money,” he said, adding that around 100 people are employed in tourism industry in the Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary.

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When tigers and leopards come to farmer’s help