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Leopards provide public health benefits in Mumbai, India

Populations of large carnivores are often suppressed in human‐dominated landscapes because they can kill or injure people and domestic animals. However, carnivores can also provide beneficial services to human societies, even in urban environments. We examined the services provided by leopards (Panthera pardus) to the residents of Mumbai, India, one of the world's largest cities. We suggest that by preying on stray dogs, leopards reduce the number of people bitten by dogs, the risk of rabies transmission, and the costs associated with dog sterilization and management. Under one set of assumptions, the presence of leopards in this highly urbanized area could save up to 90 human lives per year. A further indirect benefit of leopard presence may be an increase in local abundance of other wildlife species that would otherwise be predated by dogs. The effective conservation of carnivores in human‐dominated landscapes involves difficult trade‐offs between human safety and conservation concerns. Quantitative assessments of how large carnivores negatively and positively affect urban ecosystems are critical, along with improved education of local communities about large carnivores and their impacts.

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