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Bats! The latest addition to leopards’ big menu

Leopards are known for their adaptability but camera trap images from forests in Tumkur showing a big cat carrying bats (Indian Flying Fox) has surprised researchers as the addition of this variety of diet shows yet another aspect of the big cat’s flexibility. 

Wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi of the Holemathi Nature Conservation and Nature Conservation Foundation set up camera traps to estimate the leopard population in Devarayanadurga State Forest in Tumkur.  

In August-September, the cameras captured two occasions of a female leopard, aged 5-6 years, carrying a bat. “This is a unique record and possibly nowhere else documented in the world. However, it is not ascertained if the leopard was climbing up trees to capture the roosting flying fox or if it is using other methods to hunt,” Gubbi said.

Leopards are known to feed on a wide variety of diets from large preys, like sambar, chital, and wild pig to medium-sized prey (four-horned antelope, barking deer, etc.) and small prey (black-naped hare, porcupine, pangolin, etc). They are also known to feed on reptiles, birds, fish and domestic animals, such as goats, sheep, dogs, etc. Gubbi noted that it is their flexibility about the prey that makes them adaptable to different habitats. “Several interesting preys, such as bandicoots, monitor lizards, and fish have been documented on the leopards’ diet,” he said, adding that the bat was the latest addition.

“The female leopard was also captured in the same location with its six-month-old cub. So, it is possible that the cub will also learn this unique behaviour,” he added. 

(Published 16 October 2023, 22:33 IST)

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