Watching a leopard amble along a sun-beaten track at dusk is a captivating sight. But now these big cats are in danger in India. At least 130 leopards have been poached this year so far, say experts describing the figures as “alarming”.
Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra recorded the highest number of leopard deaths, stated the NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).
There have been reports of 240 leopard deaths so far.
Across the country, 17 leopards were killed in man-animal conflict, 19 died in road accidents, eight were shot dead by the forest department, six died in rescue operations, two were killed by other big cats, while 58 more were found dead, says WPSI.
The rest of the deaths are feared to have been caused by poaching.
Uttarakhand has seen a spurt in leopard deaths. Twenty-nine leopards were poached, four killed in man-animal conflict, including three that were shot dead by the forest department.
“Thirty-one more leopards were found dead in the state. Some died of natural causes, but others may have died in conflict. We don’t have proof,” said Tito Joseph of the WPSI. Seven more died in road accidents.
A census in 2007 showed 2,300 leopards in the state.
“We are compiling a report as part of the tiger census this year which will reveal the latest figure of leopards,” Paramjit Singh, chief conservator of forests of Uttarakhand, told IANS. There is no record of the total number of this agile and stealthy predator in India. They are protected by Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, the highest protection provided to wild animals.
Fifteen leopards were poached in Maharashtra, 13 in Uttar Pradesh and 12 in Karnataka. Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam and Himachal Pradesh have also seen leopard deaths in man-animal conflicts.
The buffer areas of wildlife sanctuaries have been the main poaching grounds. Some of these places have seen intense man-animal conflict. More....