Millions of people around the world live with cats, but most of the felines are housebroken -- or at least they could be. Such is not the case in Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, India, where approximately 40 leopards live in close quarters with people who have set up homes in informal settlements there. While leopard populations in much of the world have declined sharply due to lack of habitat and prey, the big cats appear to thrive alongside humans in the urban forest. One study suggests that not only do they survive by feeding on stray dogs, but in doing so they also protect people from dog attacks. Mumbai is home to a huge number of stray dogs, and thousands of residents are bitten every year -- with some dying from rabies. The study's authors say that the number of dog attacks in Sanjay Gandhi National Park is much lower, ostensibly due to the presence of leopards. And while leopards have been known to attack people as well, the number of such incidents has dropped to nearly zero since a high of 25 such cases in 2002.
Life of a leopard:
- Leopards can run at 36 mph (58 kph) and jump almost 20 feet (6 m).
- In the wild, male and female leopards rarely go into each other's territory except to mate.
- Black leopards have spots just like other leopards, but the spots are also black and hard to distinguish.