Experts urge greater conservation efforts for the big cat as number of deaths due to poaching, other reasons witnessess a steady rise every year.
In the last eight months, 303 leopards have died in the country, according to data compiled by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI),. Off these, 93 leopards were poached, while 210 died due to other reasons.
The data states that Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of poaching cases with 16 deaths, followed by Uttarkhand with 15 and Maharashtra with 10.
According to the statistics maintained by WPSI – which works with government enforcement agencies to apprehend tiger and leopard poachers and traders in India — 129 leopards were poached in 2019 while 365 died due to other reasons. Tito Joseph, programme manager of WPSI, said, “Leopard poaching is one of the threats to this species. For the last five years, poaching contributes to an average of 33 per cent of leopard deaths in India. Intelligence-led enforcement and proper prosecution of wildlife criminals is essential to reduce the poaching.”
Biologist and leopard expert Dr Vidya Athreya said, “The leopard is definitely one of the most neglected cousins of the tigers, lions and snow leopards in India. We need to resolve the issues faced by the leopard because a lot of them occur in human-dominated landscapes and also related to people who share their space with this cat.”
Wildlife Conservationist and Director of The Corbett Foundation, Kedar Gore said, “It is indeed alarming that India has lost over 5,000 leopards due to poaching, retaliatory killings and accidental hunting in the last two decades. While most conservation efforts are aimed towards tiger conservation, we are losing leopards almost four times more than tigers. Our country needs a landscape-level ‘Project Leopard’ that addresses conservation needs and policies that ensure prompt conflict resolution.”
Bollywood Actor and Wildlife Conservationist Randeep Hooda who has been consistently talking about the conservation of wild cats too said that the need of the hour is to have state-wise plan for conservation of leopards.
Randeep Hooda said, “Unlike tigers, leopard is widespread species and is found not just in protected areas but in different habitats and the rate at which the leopard population is declining is a reason for worry. The various states where this big cat is found need to prepare a strategy and plan for better conservation of this majestic cat. Poaching poses a huge threat to leopards along with habitat loss and so focus should also be on lifting social-economic level of local communities who share space with these cats and this might help in reducing the cases of poaching. Another important thing is that there should be a higher rate of conviction in cases related to poaching because only when there is fear of law, people would stay away from poaching.”
Conservation Photographer Sarosh Lodhi from CLaW said, “If 1/3rd of the mortalities are attributed to poaching, we know there are some strong decisions needed to save the species. Being adaptable has become a bane for the spotted cats. Falling in wells, getting killed on the road, and constantly straying into human habitats remain major concerns.”
Saket Badola, head of the India office of TRAFFIC, a global wildlife trade monitoring network said, “In my opinion Leopards are in deep trouble, mainly due to loss of habitat, resource sharing with humans and resulting human wildlife conflicts. Their condition becomes even more precarious due to the demand of their body parts in illegal wildlife trade. Urgent actions are required to stem loss of their habitat and towards combating crime against them. This will ensure a better future for them
Madhya Pradesh – 16
Uttarakhand – 15
Maharashtra – 10
Chhattisgarh – 8
Himachal Pradesh – 7
Karnataka – 7
Uttar Pradesh – 6
Odisha – 5
Assam – 3
Gujarat – 3
Rajasthan – 3
Telangana – 3
Jammu & Kashmir – 2
West Bengal – 2
Arunachal Pradesh – 1
Haryana – 1
Tamil Nadu – 1