By Miguel Llanos
While India has struggled to protect its declining tiger population, its leopards have been getting even less protection, or attention for that matter. A study released Friday recognized that flaw, estimating that at least four leopards are being killed each week, double the official reports, with their skins then smuggled to parts of Asia.
"Even though reports of illegal trade in leopard body parts are disturbingly frequent, the level of threat to leopards in the country has previously been unrecognized, and has fallen into our collective 'blind spot'," study co-author Rashid Raza, the India coordinator for the TRAFFIC wildlife trade monitoring network, said in a statement with the study.
At least 2,300 leopards were killed and then their body parts trafficked between 2001 and 2010, the study estimates.
Official reports of seizures account for nearly half that number, with the rest an estimate based on statistical analysis of "undetected trade" patterns by TRAFFIC, which is funded by the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The WWF said it was time to focus more efforts on leopards. They have been "overshadowed by the trade in another of the country’s national icons, the tiger," noted WWF-India President Divyabhanusinh Chavda.
The report cited numerous cases of leopard skins from India that were for sale in nearby Myanmar, Laos and Tibetan regions of China.
Much of the illegal trade is thought to go through the "porous" border with Nepal, the experts said. More....