The Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar has released a report called ‘Status of Leopard in India - 2018’, according to which the population of Indian leopard has grown by more than 60 per cent since 2014, and the new estimated count now stands at 12,852.
According to the report, the state of Madhya Pradesh is home to the highest number (3,421) of leopards in India, followed by Karnataka (1,783) and Maharashtra (1,690).
Considering regionally, about 65 per cent (8,071) of the leopards are found in Central India (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra), and the Eastern Ghats (Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh), whereas other states like Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are home 3,387 of these big cats.
The Shivalik and Gangetic plains of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are abode to 1,253 leopards, while the North-eastern hills accommodating only 141 of them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to twitter to show his appreciation for India’s efforts in conservation of wildlife as he tweeted, “Great news! After Lions and Tigers, the Leopard population increases”.
India, the only place in the world where Asiatic Lions are found, has recorded an increase of 29 per cent in the population of lions in 2020 as the fresh figures have reached to 674.
Similar success has been meted in the protection of Tigers in India, where the numbers have risen to 2,987, thus accounting to around 70% of the world’s tigers.
Meanwhile, India is on its way to introduce African Cheetah to its vast grasslands and in doing so, the subcontinent would become the only place in the world that is an abode to all the big cats.
Leopard is one of the five ‘big cats’ along with Lion, Tiger, Cheetah and Jaguar, and its fossils are believed to be at least 6 lakh years old. However, today the population of leopard is not even 10 per cent of what it used to be about 100 to 200 years ago. In fact, a study has shown that human interactions have claimed the lives of around 70 to 90 per cent of leopard population in India in the last couple of centuries.
The mammal is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ under the Red List of International Union for Conservations of Nature (IUCN). Under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, the leopard is included in the Schedule-I according to which it is an endangered species. Accordingly, hunting of the animals under this list is strictly prohibited until there is a threat to human life.
The fate of all the big cats has been same as all of them have been hunted for fun, and poached for their skin, teeth, and other body parts. Hopefully, we will see more growth in these numbers in the coming future as the Government of India raises its efforts to save not just these big cats, but also several other animal and plant species that are demanding immediate attention.