I thoroughly enjoyed the trip I made last October to villages in the foothills of the Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. While I was there, I heard a couple of stories from local people about leopard attacks. What I didn’t hear was that more people are killed by leopards in Uttarakhand than in any other state in the country: 70 a year, according to Rom Whitaker, a conservationist who presented Leopards: 21st-Century Cats, on BBC2 at the weekend. Had I known that, I’d have been even less keen to venture in the dark to the outside loo at one of the places where I stayed. In Uttarakhand and elsewhere, leopards that have turned man-eaters are being stoned, trapped and shot.
Another startling assertion was that Mumbai, the biggest city in India and the fourth-biggest in the world, has “the highest density of wild leopards anywhere on earth”. One was followed with a thermal-imaging camera as it sniffed around homes. Residents didn’t seem overly concerned, pointing out that the leopards were most likely to strike one of the many stray dogs that root about in the rubbish left on city streets.
This was a fascinating programme about the ways in which leopards and people are coming into conflict in some parts of the country and coexisting in others. If you missed it, it’s well worth catching on iPlayer.