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Opinion

60% increase in the number of leopards in 4 years; Main states of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra

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The union’s environment ministry has said there has been an increase of more than 60% in the leopard population in India since 2014. There were at least 12,852 leopards in the country in 2018 compared to an estimated 7,910 leopards in 2014 according to the ministry’s ‘State of Leopards in India’. 2018 ‘report published on Monday.

Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of leopards, 3,421 followed by Karnataka, 1783 and Maharashtra, 1690. The leopard population had increased in all central Indian states compared to previous estimates from 2014.

When it comes to different landscapes of India, Central India and the Eastern Ghats were found to have 8071 leopards that are spread across Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra, and North Telangana. 1,253 leopards were recorded in the Shivalik Hills and Gangetic Plains stretching from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh to parts of Bihar. In the Western Ghats, which includes protected areas in Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 3,387 leopards were recorded, while only 141 were estimated for the northeastern foothills and the Brahmaputra plains.

The estimation exercise has not considered other areas occupied by leopards, such as non-forested habitats (coffee and tea plantations), higher elevations in the Himalayas, arid landscapes and most of the northeast landscape. “The population estimate should be considered as the minimum number of leopards in each of the landscapes,” warns the report.

Genetic analysis of leopards during the study has indicated that leopard populations across the country are not strictly genetically structured unlike tiger populations that show structure. Parts of the Northeast, for example, have genetically distinct tiger populations. But the leopard population in India is largely continuous, according to the estimate of its population by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

However, the NTCA findings contradict a study published in the journal PeerJ in February. The study by the Indian Institute of Wildlife and the Bengaluru Center for Wildlife Studies, which used fecal samples to study genetic markers, found four distinct subpopulations of leopards in India with high genetic variation: Ghats leopards western parts, the semi-arid region of Deccan Plateau, Shivalik and the Terai region of northern India. Evaluation of the genetic data had also revealed a 75-90% decline in the leopard population in India, possibly human-induced, in the past 120-200 years.

NTCA in its estimate of the leopard population has recognized that leopard populations are becoming increasingly fragmented due to the low density of wild prey. “This has caused leopards to venture into human-dominated landscapes and end up in conflict. The intense conflicts are mainly recorded in the hills of the Shivalik-Terai landscape and parts of central India. The landscape forests of central India are home to the largest leopard population in their fragmented forest patches. While genetic and population data suggest that leopard populations are continuous, there is a growing need for corridor connectivity and habitat enhancement to reduce the human interface and therefore reduce the potential for conflict, ”he concluded. The report.

“Based on an increasing number of reported leopard deaths over the past decade due to a combination of factors such as run-over, poisoning, electrocution and human persecution, the leopard population should, at best, remain stable. , if not decrease, since 2014. Such A drastic increase in the population of a large carnivore (apex predator) within such a narrow period of time, and that also in a constantly deteriorating habitat, is ecologically impossible. Since the report does not mention anything about the difference in the area sampled between 2014 and 2018, the increase can be safely attributed to a gross underestimation in 2014 along with an increase in the total area sampled in 2018, ”said Anish Andheria, President of Wildlife. Conservation Trust (WCT).

“The number of leopards may increase substantially, but that does not show if the leopard occupation has increased. If the leopard area also increases, that is a sign that they are safe. The leopard area may appear in the full report to be published later. The number of leopards fluctuates a lot due to the presence of tigers. In protected areas where the number of tigers is low, the number of leopards increases. They can also increase due to better habitat management. At Tadoba we saw the number of leopards go from 80 to 120 in 3 to 4 years, ”said Bilal Habib, Head of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology.

Hindustan Times

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