Understanding the needs of these separate, yet overlapping species, is critical to managing predators and prey in small reserves, the researchers believe. The future outlook for most such animals is tied to living in the protected areas, which have the downfall of preventing the predators from spreading out over much wider territory.
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Karanth thinks that the leopards, tigers and dholes at Western Ghats are very aware of each other, "but are not stressed all of the time" about the situation. "Sort of like crossing streets in Manhattan, you watch for the green and red lights, but are not worried all of the time," he said.
The news provides a glimmer of hope for the trio of predators, which are all still threatened with extinction. Tigers and dholes are officially classified as being "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), while leopard populations are in slightly better shape, being classified by the IUCN as "vulnerable" to extinction. Habitat loss and illegal hunting pose two of the greatest threats.
Karanth said that, at least in certain parts of India since the 1970s, "several wildlife reserves have been set up, including the ones in the study, where strict protection, stopping habitat exploitation and more have led to quite spectacular wildlife recoveries."