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Red Threat on Tiger Census

Ahead of the ambitious tiger census in 2022, there are disturbing reports of disruption in the counting of the big cats in Palamu tiger reserve located in Jharkhand where  Naxalites have yet again threatened the tiger estimation work. Last year there were reports that the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) officials were allegedly taken hostage by the left wing ultras in Palamu when they were carrying out the work of setting up cameras in the jungle to capture the images of the tigers for the census. However, they were released later.  Palamu is not the only tiger reserve  in India facing the red threat. Indravati national park in Chattisgarh, now considered as a Naxal hotspot, and Similipal in Odisha are some other national parks where the Naxals  have affected the wildlife conservation projects. 2022 is an important year for tiger conservation as the tiger range countries – mainly the countries where the big cat is found  in South East Asia  and the Russian Far East - had  decided in

Leopards Need Tiger-Like Protection Programmes in India

Increase in Tiger,  Lion and Leopards population,  The wildlife, The wildlife india blog,

Beware, numbers can always be deceptive. After increasing tiger numbers, the government released another report  with “ good news” of increasing  leopard (Panthera pardus)  figures. “The population of leopards has increased by 60%     as compared to 2014 survey,” the  ‘Status of Leopard in India 2018’ report, said . India now has 12,852 leopards as compared to the previous estimate which was conducted in 2014.MadhyaPradesh recorded the largest number of  3,421 leopards  followed by , 1783 in Karnataka and  1690 in Maharashtra. “ Increase in Tiger, Lion and Leopards population over the last few years is a testimony to fledgling wildlife  and biodiversity,”  Union minister for   Environment ,forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar  was quick to announce on Twitter. Amidst the celebrations, the minister missed a point completely - a recent genetic study in India has found that leopards have experienced a possible human induced 75-90% population decline in the last 120-200 years. Despite decreasing numbers and range, their ubiquitous presence across human habitations leads to misconceptions regarding their current abundance. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, all this  is carried in the same report. The habitat loss continues, now at a  faster pace, Mr. Minister . Habitat loss and human –leopard conflict are the causes of   grave concern. Every day, there are reports of leopards stoned to death or caged   after  rescued from an angry crowd.

Also read:Problem Of Plenty: Gir Lions Turn Scavengers AsDeadly Virus Stares

Most Cases of Conflict from Shivalik Hills and Central India

Increase in Tiger,  Lion and Leopards population,  The wildlife, The wildlife india blog,
Leopards are widely distributed species and in comparison to other large carnivores have been able to survive better in an increasingly human dominated landscape, largely due to it's adaptable behaviour and due to protection. Leopards serve as apex predators in most of the forested landscapes in India, beyond the realm of tiger and lion. While leopards have been persecuted historically, we find them evoking a negative response in large parts of country due to negative interactions with humans all the more today, the report highlights . Despite their widespread distribution, leopard habitats are being increasingly fragmented, and such small fragmented areas with low wild prey densities cannot harbour a sizable population of leopards. This has resulted in leopards venturing out into human- dominated landscapes and ending up in conflicts. Intense conflicts are mostly reported from the hills of Shivalik-Terai landscape and parts of Central India, the report warns. The forests of Central Indian landscape harbour the largest population of leopards in it's fragmented forest patches. While genetic data and population data suggest that leopard populations across is continuous, there is an increasing need for corridor connectivity, and improvement of habitat, to reduce interface with humans and thereby reducing the chance of conflict. With leopards venturing out into human habitations more often, developmental projects need appropriate mitigation measures and greener technology to sustain not only leopards, but also other carnivores and biodiversity in general. We are at that juncture where socio-economic development and conservation are at a critical point. It is now important, more than ever, to incorporate and implement a model of adaptive management of Protected Areas which are still in poor condition and can be improved, and explore possible models for coexistence of large carnivores with humans..

Indian Leopards are Genetically Diverse

Increase in Tiger,  Lion and Leopards population,  The wildlife, The wildlife india blog,
Pic credit: Status Of Leopards In India, 2018
The good thing about India leopards is that they are “not strictly genetically structured, as  opposed to tiger populations which show structuring”. Both these analyses reveal that leopard populations across the country are not very distinctly genetically structured, with only distance playing a role in differentiating populations. Genetic structure of leopards  revealed structuring that was evidence of isolation by distance. Across landscapes gene flow was evident .Through these results, it is interesting to note that while tigers across the same space are genetically structured, leopard populations are genetically diverse, with genetic structure seemingly driven only by separation in space.

Massive Exercise to Capture the Elusive Big Cat

Increase in Tiger,  Lion and Leopards population,  The wildlife, The wildlife india blog,
Pic credit: Status Of Leopards In India, 2018
Tigers  have unique stripes.Leopards have rosette shaped markings over their body. Rudyard Kipling suggested that it was because the leopard moved to an environment "full of trees and bushes and stripy, speckly, patchy-blatchy shadows". But scientists at the University of Bristol found  that  “Cats living in dense habitats, in the trees, and active at low light levels, are the most likely to be patterned, especially with particularly irregular or complex patterns. This suggests that detailed aspects of patterning evolve for camouflage”. For the  leopard population estimates, camera traps were placed at 26,838 locations spread across 141 sites for mark recapture analysis .Camera traps were systematically distributed within the sampling area by superimposing 2  square km grid and deploying at least one pair of cameras  A total of 51,337 leopard photographs were obtained from camera  traps. Software called ExtractCompare designed to automatically identify individual animals from natural markings was used to identify individual animal

Also read: Protect This Wildlife Corridor To Save The Ganges 

Maximum number of leopards was reported from Central India and Eastern Ghats . comprising the jungles of  Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh,Chattisgarh, Jharkhand,Odisha, Maharashtra and Telengana.Leopards in North India are distributed from Trans-Himalayas to Gangetic plains, but the current leopards’ assessment was limited to an altitude of 2,600 m in this landscape, where leopard signs were distributed across the forested areas of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Bihar. Leopards were reported from the higher reaches of Himalayas in Nainital and Champawat.In the Western Ghats  Leopard presence were recorded in the forested areas of Western Ghats, Nilgiris, and sporadically recorded across much of the dry forests of Central Karnataka . In the NorthEast region and Brahmputra  flood plains ,the Leopards are distributed widely in the North Eastern landscape from high altitude of Eastern Himalayas to the forests adjacent to tea gardens in the flood plains but due to sampling  inadequacy, the leopard population was estimated only from the camera trapped sites of Northern West Bengal, Manas and Nameri tiger reserves of Assam and southern valley of Pakke tiger reserve of Arunachal Pradesh.

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