INDIAN LEOPARD WITNESSING POPULATION DECLINE GS-3 CONSERVATION, ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION & DEGRADATION

CONTEXT

According to research leopard faces an 83% increased risk of extinction in North India due to roadkill. The research was published in the international journal Global Ecology and Biogeography. India’s leopard population has reduced to one tenth in the last 100 years, experiencing catastrophic declines due to increasing human pressures. Some common  threats the animal faces today–ranging from conflicts with humans, poaching, habitat loss to availability of prey–a group of scientists with new insights on loss of leopard abundance. Therefore there are much needed projects required on the similar lines of “Project Tiger”.

SALIENT FEATURES OF THE REPORT:

 

The leopard population of North India is vulnerable among four animal populations. Leopards are identified as being the most vulnerable and are prone to go extinct in the next 50 years if observed roadkill levels continue with the same effect. According to the study at an 83% increased risk,  the North Indian leopard population will take 33 years to become extinct.

Existing roadkill data used for 392 mammal species on six continents, the   calculations are based on population density, roadkill rates, sexual maturity age, litter size etc. For the North Indian leopard population, the study was carried out in Uttarakhand’s Rajaji National Park and Haridwar Conservation area. If at least 20% of the population has been killed by roadkill, the risk of local extinction can increase by 10%.

Other populations which lie in the same vulnerability  include the lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus) and sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) in South India.

The study focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa and south-eastern Asia as regions where roads can lead to loss of mammalian biodiversity and thus, areas where future road development and road mitigation need to be carefully considered.

About Leopard

The leopard (Panthera pardus) is the one of the smallest Big Cats of genus Panthera, namely the Tiger, Lion, Jaguar, Leopard, and Snow Leopard, and known for its ability to adapt in any habitat.

Leopards are nocturnal animals, which means they like to hunt during night times. They usually feed on smaller species of herbivores like deers, chital, wild pigs, wild boars etc. Melanism is a common phenomenon  in leopards, where their entire skin of the animal turns black in colour, including its spots such a leopard is often called black panther or jaguar, and mistakenly thought to be a different species, however they are the same.

Habitat

 

Leopards occur in a wide range in sub-Saharan African countries, in small parts of Western and Central Asian countries, on the Indian subcontinent to Southeast and East Asia. The Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is a leopard widely distributed on the Indian subcontinent.

As per a recent report released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and climate change titled ‘Status of leopards in India, 2018’ there has been a “60% increase in the population count of leopards in India from 2014 estimates’’. The 2014 estimates 8000 individuals which nearly increased to 12,852 individuals. The highest population of leopards in Indian states have been recorded in Madhya Pradesh (3,421) followed by Karnataka (1,783) and Maharashtra (1,690).

Threats 

  • Poaching

  • Death Due to accidents

  • Habitat loss 

  • Fragmentation of habitat

  • Human-Leopard conflict

  • Illegal wildlife trade

  • Incompetent conservation policies

Present Conservation Status:

 

  • In IUCN Red List leopards are classified as Vulnerable

  • In CITES leopard are classified under Appendix-I

  • In Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 leopards are classified under Schedule-I which prohibits its poaching.

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