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Human disturbance affects habitat use and behaviour of Asiatic leopard Panthera pardus in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand

Dusit Ngopraserta1, Antony J. Lynam c1 and George A. Galea1

a1 King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, School of Bioresources & Technology, 83 Moo 8 Thakham, Bangkhuntien, Bangkok 10150, Thailand.

Abstract

Edge effects arising from road construction and other development in protected areas can negatively affect the behaviour of wildlife, particularly large carnivores. The Asiatic leopard Panthera pardus is a large carnivore that may be sensitive to edge effects. Camera trapping was used to assess the influence of human disturbance along forest edges on leopard behaviour and habitat use in a 104 km2 area of Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand. A minimum of four male and two female leopards was recorded in the study area. A Park access road bisecting the study area was not a barrier to leopard movement but movements and activity were affected by human traffic inside the Park. A regression model showed that leopard habitat use increased with distance from human settlements at the forest edge. As in other parts of its range, leopards at Kaeng Krachan National Park tended to show less diurnal activity in areas more heavily used by people compared to areas less used. As is the case with tigers, such responses may pose a threat to leopard population persistence but more research is needed to determine the demographic implications of edge effects for Asiatic leopards and other large tropical carnivores, and the appropriate mitigation strategies required.

(Received November 04 2005)

(Online publication January 17 2006)

(Accepted June 07 2006)

Correspondence:

c1 Wildlife Conservation Society, Asia Programs, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY, USA. E-mail tlynam@wcs.org

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