Leopard deaths in India at five-year high, Uttarakhand tops the list
New Delhi, Dec 18: India recorded 460 leopard deaths in 2018, the highest mortality rate of the big cat species in the country in the last five years.
At least 431 leopards were killed in 2017, 440 in 2016, 399 in 2015 and 331 in 2014. There were 12,000 to 14,000 leopards across India, according to a 2016 census.
Wildlife Protection Society of India, a Delhi based wildlife group, released their year-end data. It stated that according to the census, there were 12,000-14,000 leopards in India in 2016.
However, for the year 2018, there were a total of 460 leopard deaths in India, the highest in the world. Uttarakhand witnessed the most tiger deaths in India at 93, followed by Maharashtra (90), Rajasthan (46).
Even though the Indian leopard is listed as "vulnerable" and is in the IUCN Red List - protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 - it largely remains ignored in terms of conservation efforts.
Wildlife Protection Society of India' programme coordinator, Tito Joseph said that cases of poaching, human-animal conflicts and road accidents have shown us how rapid increase in urbanisation have caused massive destruction to the habitats of wildlife.
In a data submitted by Union Environment Ministry in Lok Sabha, it stated that a total of 260 leopards were poached between 2015 to 2018. The tally states that an average of more than 85 tigers are poached every year.
The data highlighted the inefficiency of concerned authorities to control the poaching cases. Many experts blame the lenient legal system for its inefficiency to prosecute poachers.
"It has been decided that no new road or railway line proposal will be designed without implementing mitigation measures such as underpasses, overpasses etc. This is now a mandatory requirement for all agencies in India,'' said the ministry's additional director general, M S Negi.
"Directions have been issued for existing roads that also need to be converted allowing safe passage for animals."
Despite Wildlife Protection Act prohibiting poaching as an illegal act, with a prison sentence up to 7 years and fine of 25,000, not many poachers have actually been prosecuted for the same. A prison sentence for a poacher is considered a rare conviction.