Despite conservation efforts, troubles continue to claw at the existence of India's big cats. In the last three months, a total of 162 leopards and 36 tigers died in the country, as per data released by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). Of the leopard deaths, 37.04 per cent cases comprise seizure and poaching. Shockingly, Maharashtra leads in the latter. For tigers, around 35 per cent deaths have been attributed to unnatural reasons, which include poaching, accidents and electrocution.
The number of tiger and leopard deaths were reported between January 1 to March 31. Out of the 162 leopards, 26 were poached, while the skin and bones of 34 were recovered. Thirty-one leopards were killed in road and rail accidents. The Indian Leopard is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act , 1972. As per a countrywide census in 2015, India has an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 leopards.
According to WPSI, Uttarkhand reported the highest number of leopard deaths with 36, with Maharashtra as the second highest with 31, followed by 14 in Rajasthan, 11 in Uttar Pradesh, 10 in Himachal and Madhya Pradesh, nine in Karnataka, seven each in West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, followed by other states.
The state-wise breakup and the reasons behind leopard deaths also present some shocking figures. While 51 leopards were found dead, 26 were poached, skin and bones of 34 were seized, nine were killed by villagers, 21 died in road or train accidents, three died during rescue operations, 8 due to infighting , one because of electrocution and eight were killed by a tiger or another animal.
Maharashtra tops the chart when it comes to poaching, with 12 leopards poached here, followed by five such incidents from Himachal Pradesh and three in Madhya Pradesh. Maharashtra also leads in leopard deaths caused by road or train accidents with six such mortalities, followed by three in Karnataka, two each in West Bengal, Uttarkhand , Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.
Increase in tiger deaths
As for the tiger deaths, AnvitaParanjape, an admin member of Conservation Lenses and Wildlife (CLaW), a group of wildlife lovers and photographers, that has also been documenting the tiger mortality in the country told mid-day, "India lost 31 tigers in 90 days this year (according to their data). This marks a close to a 19 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. As per the trend, central India still accounts to approximately half of the tiger mortality numbers nationwide. As per our records, around 35 per cent of tiger deaths are attributed to unnatural reasons, which include poaching, accidents and electrocution."
According to CLaW , Madhya Pradesh had the highest number of tiger deaths with 10 deaths, while seven each were reported from Maharashtra and Karnataka, three from Uttarakhand, two from Rajasthan and one from Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Reacting to the statistics, Tito Joseph, program manager, WPSI, said, "This is a serious issue. Of the total 162 leopard deaths, 37.4 per cent cases comprise seizure and poaching, which is alarming. There is a huge demand for tiger and leopard body parts outside India for making traditional Chinese medicine and the need of the hour is to have more better coordination between various government departments, including the police and forest departments, so that maximum intelligence is gathered to arrest poachers and their gangs."
Kedar Gore, wildlife conservationist and director of the Corbett Foundation said, "India seriously needs a #ProjectLeopard to protect these beautiful cats from further dwindling. While most of the conservation efforts are aimed towards tiger conservation in India, we have been losing leopards almost four times more than the tigers!" He added, "Big cats signify the epitome of conservation in India. Unless we ensure their habitat, wild prey, water sources and corridor forests connecting Protected Areas (PA) are kept inviolate, long-term protection of these cats will be merely on paper and in thoughts. The protection mechanism outside of PAs is grossly insufficient and this is where most of the Big Cats are killed." Suggesting methods for further conservation, Gore said, "Big cats cannot be killed without the knowledge and involvement of local communities. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to involve local communities in conservation programmes. And last but not the least...as responsible citizens, it is our utmost duty to support governmental efforts and local NGOs, who work tirelessly to protect India's wildlife."
Total no of leopard deaths in the country
Total no. of tiger deaths in the country
No of leopards killed in Maharashtra
No of tiger deaths in Maharashtra
Total no. of days during which the deaths were reported
Total no. of leopard deaths in the country
Total no. of tiger deaths in the country