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Big Cats Picky About Habitat

Leopard in a tree.
(Image: © stock.xchng)

Many species of large cats, including the leopard, are particularly fussy about where they live, actively avoiding certain areas, a new study in Tanzania finds.

Surprisingly, all the species surveyed tended to avoid croplands, the researchers found, suggesting that habitat conversion to agricultural land could have serious implications for carnivore distribution.

The study used hidden cameras at 400 locations to survey big cats. The cameras provided new data on the nocturnal animals, data that was lacking until now.

"Carnivores are generally thought to be relatively tolerant to land conversion, yet our study suggests that they may be more sensitive to development than previously thought, and that protected areas need to be sufficiently large to ensure that these charismatic animals will roam in Tanzania for the decades to come," said Nathalie Pettorelli from the Zoological Society of London. "All species were affected by rivers and habitat, and the analysis provides important information relevant to the examination of future impacts of climate change."

The results were reported recently in the journal Animal Conservation.