Odisha’s leopard estimate declines 25% since 2018 | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Odisha’s leopard estimate declines 25% since 2018

ByDebabrata Mohanty
Mar 01, 2024 09:51 PM IST

Odisha’s principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Susanta Nanda said the decline in leopard figures could be due to a reduction in number of estimation sites

Odisha’s leopard population declined by over 25% to 568 as compared to the 2018 estimate of 760, according to a leopard population estimation by the Union environment ministry.

The leopard population has increased in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh, while a decline has been noted in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana (PTI)
The leopard population has increased in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh, while a decline has been noted in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana (PTI)

The fifth cycle of leopard population estimation was carried out by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Wildlife Institute of India in collaboration with State Forest Departments in 2022, as part of the quadrennial “Monitoring of Tiger, Co-predators, prey and their habitat” exercise in tiger range states.

According to the data released on Thursday, there were 13,874 leopards in India, up from 12,852 in 2018.

“The leopard population has increased in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh, while a decline has been noted in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana. This suggests common threats, such as poaching of prey for bush meat, targeted poaching for tiger and leopard skins and body parts and habitat loss due to mining and other human activities. Additionally, road accidents are a significant cause of leopard fatalities,” the Union ministry said in its assessment report.

The report said leopard occupancy has been reported exclusively within Protected Areas and their adjoining forest divisions while their occupancy has declined from the previous occupied regions. Leopard distribution is now majorly concentrated in the Similipal & Satkosia Tiger Reserves, Hirakund, and Kotagarh Khalasuni wildlife sanctuaries.

The decline in leopard numbers comes amid an increase in seizures of leopard hides by the Special Task Force and state forest department over the last five years. The STF has seized at least 57 leopard hides in five years while the state forest department officials seized another 50 hides.

JN Pankaj, inspector general of police of Odisha STF said his officials had found an increase in trade in leopard hide.

“While wildlife crimes shot up sharply during the two years of Covid-19, it has not abated much. Those residing in forest areas are involved in poaching and trading,” he said, adding that there was a local market for leopard skin.

Wildlife conservationist Biswajit Mohanty said poaching seemed to be the only reason for the decline in leopard numbers.

“The rise in seizure of leopard hides over last five years only goes on to prove the rampant poaching in the state’s forests. In the last 30 years not a single poacher has been convicted in a leopard killing case showing the failure of the state forest department,” said Mohanty.

Odisha’s principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Susanta Nanda said the fall in leopard numbers could be due lesser number of estimation sites as compared to 2018.

“In 2022, camera traps were placed only in 3 sites compared to 14 sites in 2018. Mainly western part of Odisha and other sanctuaries where more leopards are located were not taken into consideration either with camera traps or Scat analysis. As enough camera traps are available with the state, we will do intensive pre-monsoon leopard census in May 2024. It will not be an estimation,” said Nanda.

The ministry has suggested Odisha should consider supplementing prey in low-density areas, implementing effective protection strategies, and provide wildlife management training for forest staff.

“Ensuring wildlife passage measures on roads passing through leopard habitats is also crucial. Effective patrolling and law enforcement are particularly critical,” it said.

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