The Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change releases the ‘Status of Leopards in India 2018′ report.
Key findings of the report
- As per the report, India’s leopard population increased to 12,852 in 2018 from around 8,000 in 2014
- Population of leopards has been estimated using camera trapping methods.
- The highest concentration of the leopard in India is estimated to be in Madhya Pradesh (3,421) followed by Karnataka (1,783) and Maharashtra (1,690).
- According to the report, Leopard occurs in prey rich protected areas as well as multi-use forests.
- The leopard was estimated across forested habitats in tiger range areas of the country.
- But other leopard occupied areas such as non-forested habitats (coffee and tea plantations and other land uses from where leopards are known to occur), higher elevations in the Himalayas, arid landscapes and majority of North East landscape were not sampled and
- Therefore, the population estimation should be considered as minimum number of leopards in each of the landscapes.
- The report states that tiger has not only served as an umbrella species but even its monitoring has helped evaluate the status of other species, like the leopard
- A study earlier this year had found four distinct sub-populations of leopards in India with high genetic variations – leopards of the Western Ghats, the Deccan Plateau semi-arid region, the Shivalik mountains, and the Terai region in North India.
Methods of estimation
It used similar methods as used in Tiger estimation;
The region-wise population of Leopards
- In Indian subcontinent poaching, habitat loss, depletion of natural prey and conflict are major threats to leopard populations.
- In India, leopards have experienced a possibly human-induced 75-90% population decline in the last ~120-200 years.
- The data analyses of leopard status and distribution suggest 48–67% range loss for the species in Africa and 83–87% in Asia.
- The leopard is one of the five extant species in the genus Panthera, a member of the Felidae. It occurs in a wide range in sub-Saharan Africa, in small parts of Western and Central Asia, a small part of European Russia, and on the Indian on the Indian subcontinent to Southeast and East Asia.
- The leopard is distinguished by its well-camouflaged fur, opportunistic hunting behaviour, broad diet, strength, and its ability to adapt to a variety of habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe, including arid and montane areas.
Distribution and Habitat:
- The leopard has the largest distribution of all wild cats, occurring widely in Africa as well as the Caucasus and Asia, although populations are fragmented and declining.
- It is considered to be extirpated in North Africa. It inhabits foremost savanna and rainforest, and areas where grasslands, woodlands, and riverine forests remain largely undisturbed.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, it is still numerous and surviving in marginal habitats where other large cats have disappeared
Conservation status: Vulnerable’ as per International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).