India Leopard Census: Why Some States Left Out?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The first ever leopard census of India which revealed the estimated population of the wild species at 7,910, which may sum up to 12,000 to 14,000 all over the country after extrapolation of the numbers.

The census area covered 350,000 sq km of forest habitat across the Shivalik hills and Gangetic plains, central India and the Western Ghats and 17,143 pictures of 1,647 individual leopards were taken during the census.

The methodology used was similar to tiger census obtaining photographic evidence and then extrapolating the numbers to cover the entire forest landscape.

“There are leopards outside the areas we covered. Based on these numbers, we estimate India’s total leopard population to be in the range of 12,000 to 14,000,” Yadvendradev V Jhala, the lead scientist of the tiger census, who presented the leopard figures at a seminar in Dehradun last week at Wildlife Institute of India.

However, the number has evoked criticism about the sample base and final figures arrived at.
The survey was conducted in the tiger states, except West Bengal and non-tiger states like Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Punjab were totally left out. Within tiger-hosting states, not all the areas were covered as north-west Rajasthan was left out, said critics.

Another point of contention was that in Uttarakhand alone 2,000 leopards were counted by forest officials over a period of time and the current ‘national census’ estimates only 703 leopards in the state. It could have been because the survey has left out high altitude or hill areas in many states of Himalayan foothills.

Otherwise, leopard deaths in 2015 were put at 295 in 2015 compared to 329 in 2014, bringing some cheer to wildlife lovers in the country.

 Mortality                 200
 Poaching &              95
Total                  295

 Mortality               213
 Poaching &           116
Total                 329

The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) said leopard poachers and traders throughout India are  behind leopard’s deaths, or seizure of their parts.

The WPSI below shoe the poaching deaths of leopards in India since 1994:

To date, WPSI has documented the following cases:

138 leopards killed in 1994
143 leopards killed in 1995
110 leopards killed in 1996
145 leopards killed in 1997
69 leopards killed in 1998
135 leopards killed in 1999
1,278 leopards killed in 2000
167 leopards killed in 2001
89 leopards killed in 2002
148 leopards killed in 2003
123 leopards killed in 2004
200 leopards killed in 2005
165 leopards killed in 2006
126 leopards killed in 2007
157 leopards killed in 2008
161 leopards killed in 2009
180 leopards killed in 2010
187 leopards killed in 2011
137 leopards killed in 2012
110 leopards killed in 2013
116 leopards killed in 2014

The figures are reached after taking sezures by customs officials and extrapolating the number by 10 times to estimate the size of an illegal trade.  “The illicit international demand for big cat skins along with the trade in bones and other parts for use in traditional oriental medicine, continues to be the main reason for the unrelenting poaching pressure on these endangered cats,” said WPSI.

There is virtually no market for either skins or bones of leopards within India, it added highlighting the need for illegal smuggling out of them to overseas markets.

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