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| Last Updated:: 02/05/2018

Maharashtra losing leopards faster than its tigers











While tiger mortalities capture national attention, the leopards in Maharashtra also face a creeping threat due to poaching, road kills, poisoning, and drowning. Since 2015, almost 300 leopards have been found dead compared to 59 tigers. 



Though there are no scientific counts of leopards in the wild, it is estimated that Maharashtra has around 2,000 panthers. Experts said rising leopard mortalities and their increasing conflict with humans indicates the pressures on their habitats. This may increase the threat for tigers who use these areas as dispersal corridors. 



In 2015, the recorded leopard mortalities were 66, which rose to 89 in 2016 and 85 in 2017. By March 31 this year, 41 leopards were found dead due to natural causes and reasons like poaching, poisoning, drowning in open wells, snares, electrocution, and road kills. 



“It is necessary to understand the leopards’ habitat. It can exist anywhere and feed on small animals like dogs, cats, and rabbits. This is an adaptable animal... Leopard mortalities are rising due to the increasing spread of human activities and pressures on forests,” explained Jaydeep Das, honorary wildlife warden, Nagpur. He noted that linear projects like roads and canals posed a threat to dispersing animals and should include mitigation measures. 



“The number of leopard mortalities are high as it is found across habitats from cities like Mumbai to the deep jungles of Gadchiroli. More leopards exist outside areas like forests like in sugarcane fields,” said former divisional forest officer Girish Vashisth. He added people could be educated on co-existence with these carnivores by pointing to how a good prey-predator ratio would check the number of herbivores and prevent crop damages. 



Several conservationists have highlighted the need for a national project for leopards on the lines of Project Tiger and Project Elephant. 



“Leopards have been completely ignored despite the fact that their mortalities are rising and so is their conflict with humans and hence its very important for the forest department to re-think their strategy when it comes to leopards. The need of the hour is to have a national level Project Leopard for their conservation, which should also emphasise on regular population estimation,” said Dr Mayukh Chatterjee, Head of Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation division. 








In 2015, the recorded leopard mortalities were 66, which rose to 89 in 2016 and 85 in 2017. By March 31 this year, 41 leopards were found dead due to reasons like poaching & poisoning