Publications by authors named "Qamar Qureshi"

15 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Feasibility of reintroducing grassland megaherbivores, the greater one-horned rhinoceros, and swamp buffalo within their historic global range.

Sci Rep 2021 Feb 24;11(1):4469. Epub 2021 Feb 24.

Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NZ, UK.

Reintroduction of endangered species is an effective and increasingly important conservation strategy once threats have been addressed. The greater one-horned rhinoceros and swamp buffalo have declined through historic hunting and habitat loss. We identify and evaluate available habitat across their historic range (India, Nepal, and Bhutan) for reintroducing viable populations. We used Species Distribution Models in Maxent to identify potential habitats and evaluated model-identified sites through field visits, interviews of wildlife managers, literature, and population-habitat viability analysis. We prioritize sites based on size, quality, protection, management effectiveness, biotic pressures, and potential of conflict with communities. Our results suggest that populations greater than 50 for rhinoceros and 100 for buffalo were less susceptible to extinction, and could withstand some poaching, especially if supplemented or managed as a metapopulation. We note some reluctance by managers to reintroduce rhinoceros due to high costs associated with subsequent protection. Our analysis subsequently prioritised Corbett and Valmiki, for rhino reintroduction and transboundary complexes of Chitwan-Parsa-Valmiki and Dudhwa-Pilibhit-Shuklaphanta-Bardia for buffalo reintroductions. Establishing new safety-nets and supplementing existing populations of these megaherbivores would ensure their continued survival and harness their beneficial effect on ecosystems and conspecifics like pygmy hog, hispid hare, swamp deer, hog deer, and Bengal florican.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-83174-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7904804PMC
February 2021

GPS-telemetry unveils the regular high-elevation crossing of the Himalayas by a migratory raptor: implications for definition of a "Central Asian Flyway".

Sci Rep 2020 09 29;10(1):15988. Epub 2020 Sep 29.

Department of Conservation Biology, Estacion Biologica de Doñana - CSIC, C/Americo Vespucio, 26, 41092, Sevilla, Spain.

Remote technologies are producing leapfrog advances in identifying the routes and connectivity of migratory species, which are still unknown for hundreds of taxa, especially Asian ones. Here, we used GPS-telemetry to uncover the migration routes and breeding areas of the massive population of migratory Black-eared kites wintering around the megacity of Delhi-India, which hosts the largest raptor concentration of the world. Kites migrated for 3300-4800 km along a narrow corridor, crossing the Himalayas at extremely high elevations (up to > 6500 m a.s.l.) by the K2 of the Karakoram Range and travelled long periods at elevations above 3500 m. They then crossed/circumvented the Taklamakan Desert and Tian Shan Range to reach their unknown breeding quarters at the intersection between Kazakhstan, Russia, China and Mongolia. Route configuration seemed to be shaped by dominant wind support and barrier avoidance. Wintering ranges were smaller than breeding ranges and concentrated around Delhi, likely in response to massive human food-subsidies. Our results illustrate that high-elevation crossings by soaring migrants may be more common than previously appreciated and suggest the delineation of a hitherto poorly-appreciated "Central Asian Flyway", which must funnel hundreds of thousands of migrants from central Asia into the Indian subcontinent via multiple modes of the Himalayan crossing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-72970-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7524735PMC
September 2020

Evidence for the continued use of river dolphin oil for bait fishing and traditional medicine: implications for conservation.

Heliyon 2020 Aug 15;6(8):e04690. Epub 2020 Aug 15.

Wildlife Institute of India, PO Box:18, Chandrabani, Dehradun, 248001, Uttarakhand, India.

Populations of the Ganges river dolphin () are endangered, with ~3500 individuals estimated worldwide. Threats to this precarious population is exacerbated by accidental entanglement and illegal hunting for oil, which is used in bait fisheries and traditional medicine. Alternatives to dolphin oil have been proposed and extensively promoted in India, to curb the immediate threat to dolphin populations. However, it is not known whether dolphins are still being poached for oil, despite the proposal of aforementioned alternatives. Herein, a molecular protocol to monitor the presence of Dolphin DNA, using species identification of DNA extracted from bait oils obtained from fishermen is presented. This is coupled with information from social surveys to understand the current status of use of dolphin oil. Results indicate that molecular tools provide an accurate technique for detecting the presence of dolphin DNA, and can be used by enforcement agencies to monitor and identify points of threat to dolphins. Social survey results indicate the preference of fishermen to continue the use of dolphin oil for bait, despite knowing the legal implications. It is found that alternate oils do not provide an effective solution to curb dolphin oil use, and only shifts the threats of endangerment from one species to another, in the long run. The ban of bait fishing, effective enforcement combined with monitoring through molecular tools, continued community engagement and livelihood skill development are the most viable solutions for a holistic conservation approach.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e04690DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7452396PMC
August 2020

Do conservation strategies that increase tiger populations have consequences for other wild carnivores like leopards?

Sci Rep 2019 10 11;9(1):14673. Epub 2019 Oct 11.

Wildlife Institute of India, Chandrabani, Dehradun, 248001, India.

Most large carnivore populations are declining across their global range except in some well managed protected areas (PA's). Investments for conserving charismatic apex carnivores are often justified due to their umbrella effect on biodiversity. We evaluate population trends of two large sympatric carnivores, the tiger and leopard through spatially-explicit-capture-recapture models from camera trap data in Kanha PA, India, from 2011 to 2016. Our results show that the overall density (100 km) of tigers ranged between 4.82 ± 0.33 to 5.21 ± 0.55SE and of leopards between 6.63 ± 0.71 to 8.64 ± 0.75SE, with no detectable trends at the PA scale. When evaluated at the catchment scale, Banjar catchment that had higher prey density and higher conservation investments, recorded significant growth of both carnivores. While Halon catchment, that had lower prey and conservation investments, populations of both carnivores remained stable. Sex ratio of both carnivores was female biased. As is typical with large carnivores, movement parameter sigma (an index for range size), was larger for males than for females. However, sigma was surprisingly similar for the same genders in both carnivores. At home-range scale, leopards achieved high densities and positive growth rates in areas that had low, medium or declining tiger density. Our results suggest that umbrella-species conservation value of tigers is likely to be compromised at very high densities and therefore should not be artificially inflated through targeted management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-51213-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6789119PMC
October 2019

Twisted tale of the tiger: the case of inappropriate data and deficient science.

PeerJ 2019 20;7:e7482. Epub 2019 Aug 20.

Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India.

Publications in peer-reviewed journals are often looked upon as tenets on which future scientific thought is built. Published information is not always flawless and errors in published research should be expediently reported, preferably by a peer-review process. We review a recent publication by Gopalaswamy et al. (10.1111/2041-210X.12351) that challenges the use of "double sampling" in large-scale animal surveys. Double sampling is often resorted to as an established economical and practical approach for large-scale surveys since it calibrates abundance indices against absolute abundance, thereby potentially addressing the statistical shortfalls of indices. Empirical data used by Gopalaswamy et al. (10.1111/2041-210X.12351) to test their theoretical model, relate to tiger sign and tiger abundance referred to as an Index-Calibration experiment (IC-Karanth). These data on tiger abundance and signs should be paired in time and space to qualify as a calibration experiment for double sampling, but original data of IC-Karanth show lags of (up to) several years. Further, data points used in the paper do not match the original sources. We show that by use of inappropriate and incorrect data collected through a faulty experimental design, poor parameterization of their theoretical model, and selectively picked estimates from literature on detection probability, the inferences of this paper are highly questionable. We highlight how the results of Gopalaswamy et al. were further distorted in popular media. If left unaddressed, the paper of Gopalaswamy et al. could have serious implications on statistical design of large-scale animal surveys by propagating unreliable inferences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.7482DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6707339PMC
August 2019

The population density of an urban raptor is inextricably tied to human cultural practices.

Proc Biol Sci 2019 04;286(1900):20182932

4 Department of Conservation Biology, Estacion Biologica de Doñana-CSIC , C/ Americo Vespucio 26, 41092 Sevilla , Spain.

Human socio-cultural factors are recognized as fundamental drivers of urban ecological processes, but their effect on wildlife is still poorly known. In particular, human cultural aspects may differ substantially between the extensively studied urban settings of temperate regions and the poorly studied cities of the tropics, which may offer profoundly different niches for urban wildlife. Here, we report how the population levels of a scavenging raptor which breeds in the megacity of Delhi, the black kite Milvus migrans, depend on spatial variation in human subsidies, mainly in the form of philanthropic offerings of meat given for religious purposes. This tight connection with human culture, which generated the largest raptor concentration in the world, was modulated further by breeding-site availability. The latter constrained the level of resource-tracking by the kites and their potential ecosystem service, and could be used as a density-management tool. Similar ties between animal population densities, key anthropogenic resources and human beliefs may occur in thousands of cities all over the globe and may fit poorly with our current understanding of urban ecosystem functioning. For many urban animals, key resources are inextricably linked with human culture, an aspect that has been largely overlooked.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.2932DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6501671PMC
April 2019

Human-attacks by an urban raptor are tied to human subsidies and religious practices.

Sci Rep 2019 02 22;9(1):2545. Epub 2019 Feb 22.

Department of Conservation Biology, Estacion Biologica de Doñana-CSIC, C/ Americo Vespucio 26, 41092, Sevilla, Spain.

Growing urbanization is increasing human-wildlife interactions, including attacks towards humans by vertebrate predators, an aspect that has received extremely scarce investigation. Here, we examined the ecological, landscape and human factors that may promote human-aggression by raptorial Black kites Milvus migrans in the 16-millions inhabitants megacity of Delhi (India). Physical attacks depended on human activities such as unhygienic waste management, ritual-feeding of kites (mainly operated by Muslims), human density, and presence of a balcony near the nest, suggesting an association between aggression and frequent-close exposure to humans and derived food-rewards. Surprisingly, while more than 100,000 people could be at risk of attack in any given moment, attitudes by local inhabitants were strikingly sympathetic towards the birds, even by injured persons, likely as a result of religious empathy. These results highlight the importance of socio-cultural factors for urban biota and how these may radically differentiate the under-studied cities of developing countries from those of western nations, thus broadening our picture of human-wildlife interactions in urban environments. The rapid sprawling of urban and suburban areas with their associated food-subsidies is likely to increase proximity and exposure of large predators to humans, and vice versa, leading to heightened worldwide conflicts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-38662-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6385285PMC
February 2019

Offspring defense by an urban raptor responds to human subsidies and ritual animal-feeding practices.

PLoS One 2018 29;13(10):e0204549. Epub 2018 Oct 29.

Department of Conservation Biology, Estacion Biologica de Doñana-CSIC, C/ Americo Vespucio 26, Sevilla, Spain.

There is a growing interest in the behavioural and life history mechanisms that allow animal species to cope with rapidly expanding urban habitats, which impose frequent proximity to humans. A particular case of behavioral bottleneck (i.e. conflicting interests) faced by animals in urban environments is how they will modulate the defence of their offspring against the potential danger represented by humans, an aspect that has received scarce research attention. We examined the nest defense against humans by a dense breeding population of a raptor, the Black Kite Milvus migrans, within the megacity of Delhi (India). Here, kites live on a diet dominated by human waste and meat offered through religiously motivated bird feeding practices. Nest defense levels increased with the number of offspring, and with the progression of the breeding season. Defense also intensified close to ritual-feeding areas and with increasing human waste in the streets, suggesting synergistic effects of food availability, parental investment, personality-boldness and habituation to humans, with consequent attenuation of fear. Thus, the behavioural response to a perceived threat reflected the spatial mosaic of activity of humans in the city streets, their cultural practices of ritual-feeding, and their waste-management. For synurbic species, at the higher-end spectrum of adaptation to an urban life, human cultural practices and attitudes may well be the most defining dimensions of their urban niche. Our results suggest that, after initial urban colonization, animals may continue to adapt to the typically complex, heterogeneous environments of cities through fine-grained behavioural adjustments to human practices and activities.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0204549PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6205594PMC
March 2019

Ranging, Activity and Habitat Use by Tigers in the Mangrove Forests of the Sundarban.

PLoS One 2016 6;11(4):e0152119. Epub 2016 Apr 6.

Global Tiger Forum, New Delhi, India.

The Sundarban of India and Bangladesh (about 6000 km²) are the only mangrove forests inhabited by a sizeable population of tigers. The adjoining area also supports one of the highest human densities and experiences severe human-tiger conflicts. We used GPS-Satellite and VHF radio-collars on 6 (3 males and 3 female) tigers to study their ranging patterns and habitat preference. The average home range (95% Fixed Kernel) for resident females was 56.4 (SE 5.69) and for males it was 110 (SE 49) km². Tigers crossed an average of 5 water channels > 30 meters per day with a mean width of 54 meters, whereas channels larger than 400 meters were rarely crossed. Tigers spent over 58% of their time within Phoenix habitat but compositional analysis showed a habitat preference of the order Avicennia-Sonneratia > Phoenix > Ceriops > Barren > Water. Average daily distance moved was 4.6 km (range 0.1-23). Activity of tigers peaked between 05:00 hours and 10:00 hours showing some overlap with human activity. Territory boundaries were demarcated by large channels which tigers intensively patrolled. Extra caution should be taken while fishing or honey collection during early morning in Avicennia-Sonneratia and Phoenix habitat types along wide channels to reduce human-tiger conflict. Considering home-range core areas as exclusive, tiger density was estimated at 4.6 (SE range 3.6 to 6.7) tigers/100 km2 giving a total population of 76 (SE range 59-110) tigers in the Indian Sundarban. Reluctance of tigers to cross wide water channels combined with increasing commercial boat traffic and sea level rise due to climate change pose a real threat of fragmenting the Sundarban tiger population.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0152119PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822765PMC
August 2016

Adding constraints to predation through allometric relation of scats to consumption.

J Anim Ecol 2016 05 25;85(3):660-70. Epub 2016 Mar 25.

Sakkarbaug Zoological Park, Junagadh, Gujarat, 362001, India.

A thorough understanding of mechanisms of prey consumption by carnivores and the constraints on predation help us in evaluating the role of carnivores in an ecosystem. This is crucial in developing appropriate management strategies for their conservation and mitigating human-carnivore conflict. Current models on optimal foraging suggest that mammalian carnivores would profit most from killing the largest prey that they can subdue with minimal risk of injury to themselves. Wild carnivore diets are primarily estimated through analysis of their scats. Using extensive feeding experiments (n = 68) on a wide size range (4·5-130 kg) of obligate carnivores - lion, leopard, jungle cat and domestic cat, we parameterize biomass models that best relate consumption to scat production. We evaluate additional constraints of gut fill, prey digestibility and carcass utilization on carnivory that were hereto not considered in optimal foraging studies. Our results show that patterns of consumption to scat production against prey size are similar and asymptotic, contrary to established linear models, across these carnivores after accounting for the effect of carnivore size. This asymptotic, allometric relationship allowed us to develop a generalized model: biomass consumed per collectable scat/predator weight = 0·033-0·025exp(-4·284(prey weight/predator weight)) , which is applicable to all obligate carnivores to compute prey biomass consumed from scats. Our results also depict a relationship for prey digestibility which saturates at about 90% for prey larger than predator size. Carcass utilization declines exponentially with prey size. These mechanisms result in digestible biomass saturating at prey weights approximately equal to predator weight. Published literature on consumption by tropical carnivores that has relied on linear biomass models is substantially biased. We demonstrate the nature of these biases by correcting diets of tiger, lion and leopard in recent publications. Our analysis suggests that consumption of medium-sized prey was significantly underestimated, while large prey consumption was grossly overestimated in large carnivore diets to date. We highlight that additional constraints of prey digestibility and utilization combined with escalating handling time and risks of killing large prey make prey larger than the predator size unprofitable for obligate carnivores.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12508DOI Listing
May 2016

Schrodinger's scat: a critical review of the currently available tiger (Panthera Tigris) and leopard (Panthera pardus) specific primers in India, and a novel leopard specific primer.

BMC Genet 2016 Feb 9;17:37. Epub 2016 Feb 9.

Wildlife Institute of India, Chandrabani, Dehradun, 248001, India.

Background: Non-invasive sampling has opened avenues for the genetic study of elusive species, which has contributed significantly to their conservation. Where field based identity of non-invasive sample is ambiguous (e.g. carnivore scats), it is essential to establish identity of the species through molecular approaches. A cost effective procedure to ascertain species identity is to use species specific primers (SSP) for PCR amplification and subsequent resolution through agarose gel electrophoresis. However, SSPs if ill designed can often cross amplify non-target sympatric species. Herein we report the problem of cross amplification with currently published SSPs, which have been used in several recent scientific articles on tigers (Panthera tigris) and leopards (Panthera pardus) in India. Since these papers form pioneering research on which future work will be based, an early rectification is required so as to not propagate this error further.

Results: We conclusively show cross amplification of three of the four SSPs, in sympatric non-target species like tiger SSP amplifying leopard and striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), and leopard SSP amplifying tiger, lion (Panthera leo persica) and clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), with the same product size. We develop and test a non-cross-amplifying leopard specific primer pair within the mitochondrial cytochrome b region. We also standardize a duplex PCR method to screen tiger and leopard samples simultaneously in one PCR reaction to reduce cost and time.

Conclusions: These findings suggest the importance of an often overlooked preliminary protocol of conclusive identification of species from non-invasive samples. The cross amplification of published primers in conspecifics suggests the need to revisit inferences drawn by earlier work.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12863-016-0344-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4748499PMC
February 2016

Prioritizing tiger conservation through landscape genetics and habitat linkages.

PLoS One 2014 13;9(11):e111207. Epub 2014 Nov 13.

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20008, United States of America.

Even with global support for tiger (Panthera tigris) conservation their survival is threatened by poaching, habitat loss and isolation. Currently about 3,000 wild tigers persist in small fragmented populations within seven percent of their historic range. Identifying and securing habitat linkages that connect source populations for maintaining landscape-level gene flow is an important long-term conservation strategy for endangered carnivores. However, habitat corridors that link regional tiger populations are often lost to development projects due to lack of objective evidence on their importance. Here, we use individual based genetic analysis in combination with landscape permeability models to identify and prioritize movement corridors across seven tiger populations within the Central Indian Landscape. By using a panel of 11 microsatellites we identified 169 individual tigers from 587 scat and 17 tissue samples. We detected four genetic clusters within Central India with limited gene flow among three of them. Bayesian and likelihood analyses identified 17 tigers as having recent immigrant ancestry. Spatially explicit tiger occupancy obtained from extensive landscape-scale surveys across 76,913 km(2) of forest habitat was found to be only 21,290 km(2). After accounting for detection bias, the covariates that best explained tiger occupancy were large, remote, dense forest patches; large ungulate abundance, and low human footprint. We used tiger occupancy probability to parameterize habitat permeability for modeling habitat linkages using least-cost and circuit theory pathway analyses. Pairwise genetic differences (FST) between populations were better explained by modeled linkage costs (r>0.5, p<0.05) compared to Euclidean distances, which was in consonance with observed habitat fragmentation. The results of our study highlight that many corridors may still be functional as there is evidence of contemporary migration. Conservation efforts should provide legal status to corridors, use smart green infrastructure to mitigate development impacts, and restore habitats where connectivity has been lost.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111207PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4230928PMC
February 2016

Predicting the distribution pattern of small carnivores in response to environmental factors in the Western Ghats.

PLoS One 2013 14;8(11):e79295. Epub 2013 Nov 14.

Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand, India.

Due to their secretive habits, predicting the pattern of spatial distribution of small carnivores has been typically challenging, yet for conservation management it is essential to understand the association between this group of animals and environmental factors. We applied maximum entropy modeling (MaxEnt) to build distribution models and identify environmental predictors including bioclimatic variables, forest and land cover type, topography, vegetation index and anthropogenic variables for six small carnivore species in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Species occurrence records were collated from camera-traps and vehicle transects during the years 2010 and 2011. We used the average training gain from forty model runs for each species to select the best set of predictors. The area under the curve (AUC) of the receiver operating characteristic plot (ROC) ranged from 0.81 to 0.93 for the training data and 0.72 to 0.87 for the test data. In habitat models for F. chaus, P. hermaphroditus, and H. smithii "distance to village" and precipitation of the warmest quarter emerged as some of the most important variables. "Distance to village" and aspect were important for V. indica while "distance to village" and precipitation of the coldest quarter were significant for H. vitticollis. "Distance to village", precipitation of the warmest quarter and land cover were influential variables in the distribution of H. edwardsii. The map of predicted probabilities of occurrence showed potentially suitable habitats accounting for 46 km(2) of the reserve for F. chaus, 62 km(2) for V. indica, 30 km(2) for P. hermaphroditus, 63 km(2) for H. vitticollis, 45 km(2) for H. smithii and 28 km(2) for H. edwardsii. Habitat heterogeneity driven by the east-west climatic gradient was correlated with the spatial distribution of small carnivores. This study exemplifies the usefulness of modeling small carnivore distribution to prioritize and direct conservation planning for habitat specialists in southern India.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0079295PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3828364PMC
November 2014

Enclosure design and space utilization by Indian leopards (Panthera pardus) in four zoos in Southern India.

J Appl Anim Welf Sci 2002 ;5(2):111-24

Wildlife Institute of India Bangalore, India. [email protected] yahoo.com

Enclosure design and the use of enclosure space influence the activity budget of cap-tive leopards. The study laid out in grids all enclosures on the base map and segregated these grids into 4 zones. Every 5 min, the study recorded the proportion of time spent in these zones with the leopards' behavior. Captive leopards most frequently used the "edge" zone. Almost all leopards used the edge zone for stereotypic pacing, the "back" zone for resting, and the "other" zone for activity. The study positively corre-lated the proportion of time spent in the "enriched" zone with activity levels exhibited by leopards housed in some enclosures and with resting in others. Thus, the study seg-regated structural objects in the enriched zone into activity-related features (e.g., logs) and rest-related features (e.g., trees and sleeping platforms). Compared with individu-als housed in barren enclosures, leopards housed in structurally enriched on-exhibit enclosures exhibited higher levels of activity. Enclosure design was found to be an important factor influencing the welfare of leopards in captivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/S15327604JAWS0502_02DOI Listing
June 2003