Lockdown across South Asia has changed social fabric in many ways. In my world I’m getting contact from people who now have time to reflect more than usual and much of that has been concern about the plight of the leopard. Most of the contact regarding actual coexistence situations has come from India with some from Nepal and Pakistan. As usual it is mainly people asking for help rather than offering it but that’s ok, that’s normal. I’ll be able to update soon on how we can offer assistance particularly regarding human – leopard conflict mitigation based on the Living with Big Cats model we are working on. There’s a long way to go and there is no ending as such, it’s a quest to improve, every single day.
There’s also been the usual communications with those who already deeply care and are actively involved in leopard conservation or support it. Small in number but good people. It is however many of these new contacts which are intriguing me, they are showing the depth of knowledge, spirit and concern that is needed as conflict incidents and poaching cases continue to be reported in worrying numbers. What I find in general is that people who are genuinely concerned about what is happening to the leopard, particularly in South Asia, is they are truly worried about what is happening to nature in general, far beyond the usual conservation paradigms which are so much about icon species such as tiger and rhino. There is a genuine concern on a humane level because of the brutality and numbers regarding leopard deaths plus an understanding of the tragedy when people lose their lives, particularly children. I’ve seen so many times the ways communities are affected when this happens and how rational behaviour can go out the window very quickly as retaliation becomes a focus. It is easy to understand the drive for safety in these circumstances.
Communities are the key. As we develop our model I feel hope. Awareness and education can and do reduce fatalities on both sides. It needs people who genuinely care to run these programs, it needs people who genuinely care to support these programs.
Community is not just a small village struggling to coexist with big cats, it is the global gathering of minds and there has been a lot of deep thinking these last few weeks, a lot of exclamation as to how we must change the way we live due to the impact of covid-19. . The test is now on an individual basis who are just talking the talk and who will actually change their lifestyles for the good of nature. Support for a secretive but highly important animal such as the leopard will be a mark of that test.
In the next update I’ll have more on how we’ve had to adjust our own thinking and actions. I do feel hope because of progress but the roll out can only happen if there is far greater understanding, from a small village community to the global community.