Leopard Survey

Context : India’s leopard numbers rose by 8% from 12,852 in 2018 to 13,874 in 2022, according to a report made public by the Environment Ministry.

Leopard in India

  • Indian leopards are distributed across a variety of forested habitats in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and parts of Pakistan.
  • Being apex predators, they sit at the top of the food chain, and thus play a crucial role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Like lions (Panthera leo), leopards came to India from the west, most likely Ethiopia.
  • Its is listed in CITES Appendix I. The Indian leopard is considered Vulnerable in India, Bhutan and Nepal but Critically Endangered in Pakistan.

About the Survey

  • Status of Leopards in India, 2022’ report, was released by the Union Environment Ministry on February 29.
  • The survey covered 20 States of India, and focused on about 70% of the animals’ expected habitat, which are India’s tiger reserves and protected forest areas.
  • Forest surveyors travel 6,41,449 km for carnivore signs and prey abundance estimation.
  • Camera traps were deployed at 32,803 locations, resulting in 4,70,81,881 photographs.

Key Findings of the Survey

  • Leopard numbers rose by 8% from 12,852 in 2018 to 13,874 in 2022.
  • Highest number of leopards were reported in Madhya Pradesh (3,907)
  • Only three other States reported over 1,000 animals each
    • Maharashtra (1,985)
    • Karnataka (1,879)
    • Tamil Nadu (1,070).
  • Uttarakhand reported a 22% decline in the big cat numbers — reportedly due to poaching and man-animal conflict
  • Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and West Bengal saw a collective 150% rise to 349 animals.
  • About a third of the leopards are within protected areas. Hence tiger conservation efforts have a positive impact. When we conserve tiger reserves, we also conserve leopard habitat

Threats

  • Hunting of Indian leopards for the illegal wildlife trade is the biggest threat to their survival. They are also threatened by loss of habitat and fragmentation of formerly connected populations, and various levels of human–leopard conflict in human–dominated landscapes

Conservation difficulties

  • Unlike tigers, which are largely confined to forest reserves, leopards are far more adaptable and tend to be found in significant numbers, in villages and sometimes, even in cities. They are also known to prey on cattle and thus be involved in conflict, resulting in higher mortality.

Important National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries where Leopard can be spotted

  • Jawai Leopard Reserve, located in Pali district, is a unique place to observe leopards.
  • Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary is renowned for its thriving leopard population.
  • Jhalana Leopard Reserve is a unique conservation area located in Jaipur.
  • Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh

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