First four months of 2022 not too lucky for the Indian Leopard, 73 already poached

Kolkata, April 26 (IANS) The first four months of 2022 haven't gone too well for the Indian Leopard, or so it seems. If figures published by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) are to be believed, 73 of them have been poached this year. In addition to this, 140 were found dead inside forested areas across the country.
 
First four months of 2022 not too lucky for the Indian Leopard, 73 already poached

Kolkata, April 26 (IANS) The first four months of 2022 haven't gone too well for the Indian Leopard, or so it seems. If figures published by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) are to be believed, 73 of them have been poached this year. In addition to this, 140 were found dead inside forested areas across the country.

It can't be confirmed whether these 140 animals died due to natural causes, such as old age or fights with other Leopards over mating and territorial rights.

Some of them may even have even fallen victim to human-animal conflicts. In 2021, the total number of Leopard deaths in the country was 614. Of these, 182 animals were poached.

"If the trend that we have been noticing continues throughout 2022, we may surpass the 2021 mark. It is being claimed that India's Leopard population is nearly 13,000. However, government officials need not gloat about this as rampant poaching is continuing. Unless measures are taken, it will take only a few years for the Leopard population to fall at an alarming rate. In India, the Leopard is a major attraction in several forests where there are no Tigers. Its hard to believe that 73 Leopards have been poached in less than 120 days even as the government agencies claim to have taken adequate measures to curb such activities," a wildlife expert said.

WPSI has itself maintained that the poaching figures could be much higher. It has pointed out how Customs officials multiply the figure of seizures by 10 to arrive at a true picture.

This would mean that for every Leopard skin seized, 10 animals may have been killed. While Leopard pelts are in high demand across the world, even in the so-called advanced nations who express their concern about environmental issues at international fora, the bones and other parts go towards making of traditional medicine in several Asian countries, including China.

With human habitation slowly but surely invading forest space, leopards are coming into close contact. Take the forests of north Bengal for instance.

There is little in the form of natural prey for the Leopards inside the forests that are accessible to all. It should be the forest department's responsibility to breed and release animals like Cheetal and Hog Deer inside these forests. The leopards have now shifted to the fringe areas of the forest.

This is where several tea gardens are located in the Terai.

The leopards choose the thick undergrowth of tea bushes as a place to deliver their cubs. To sustain themselves and the cubs, they prey on goats, dogs and cattle on occasions. This leads to a conflict between humans and the Leopard.

There have been several occasions when enraged villagers have clubbed the animal to death. The death of the mother means the death of the cubs.

"Little of this is actually recorded. We get reports but evidence is erased by the time we get to the spot. Everybody talks of a Leopard that attacked a man and was killed. This has to stop," a forest official said.

If one believes that the Indian Tiger is in better condition, think twice. It has been claimed that there are nearly 3,000 Bengal Tigers in the wild in India today. WPSI figures reveal that 13 Tigers have already been poached in 2022.

In 2021, 56 of them were poached. If wildlife laws in India are stringent enough and forest department staff equipped adequately, one wonders whether such crimes can take place.

--IANS

jayanta/pgh