The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has released the Status of Leopards, 2018 report.
- There are an estimated 12,852 leopards in the Indian forests.
- Of these, 3421 are in Madhya Pradesh, 1783 in Karnataka and 1690 in Maharashtra.
- The previous estimate of these big cats was 7910 and was conducted in 2014.
- Compared with 2014,more than 60% increase in population has been recorded.
- Releasing the report, the Environment Minister has pointed that the increase in tiger, lion and leopard populations shows that the conservation efforts are yielding results.
- It also shows how India is taking care of its environment, ecology and biodiversity.
- The report shows that Central and Eastern Ghats have the highest leopard numbers at 8071.
- The western ghats region has 3387 leopards, the Shiwaliks and Gangetic plains combined consists of 1253 leopards.
- In the Northeastern Hill ranges, there are only 141 leopards.
- The study was conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
- Camera traps, satellite imaging, field work by forest officers’ teams were used for the survey.
- While the increase in leopards numbers is a good sign, conservationists caution that over the last 100-125 years leopard habitats have been shrinking and there is an increased risk of man-animal conflict.
- The study was carried out only in the tiger-populated forests under Project Tiger, and leopard populations in agricultural, non-forested areas like tea and coffee plantations.
- Most parts of the Northeast have not been surveyed.
- The threats to the leopard in India are poaching, habitat loss, depletion of natural prey and human-animal conflict.
- Fragmentation of forests and increased human-leopard conflict are major threats.
- When forests get fragmented, leopards venture closer to human settlements, this is when conflict arises.
- While development cannot be stopped, green technologies can be deployed to increase forest cover and protect the species.