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Leopards Battling For Survival In India

May 18, 2010

NEW DELHI, May 18 (Bernama) -- Like tigers, endangered leopards too are battling for survival in India, as poachers are actively killing the animal to feed the illicit global demand for big cat skin, according to Wildlife Protection of India (WPSI) on Tuesday.

WPSI's Head Belinda Wright said some 160 reported dead so far since this January, compare to 290 in 2009.

"Since it is easy to trap leopards, the wildlife smugglers find them as perfect replacement for tigers for sales through wildlife trade," she said, adding its bones are widely used in traditional medicine in countries in China.

She added: "Leopard coats and trimmings are also used for traditional dances and festivals, and are sold quite openly in Tibet".

Since 1994, India has lost at least 3,189 leopards," according to an estimate by WPSI, a non-government organisation.

Leopard, a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera. The other three are namely the tiger, lion and jaguar.

WPSI estimates that there are between 7,000 to 10,000 leopards in India, and these endangerd species are protected under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The Central Bureau of Investigations' wildlife crime cell has estimated that for every tiger skin, there are at least seven leopard skins in the haul.

In 2004, a seizure in Tibet of 31 tiger skins yielded 581 leopard skins.

Apart from shrinking forests, Wright said that adaptive migration nature of the predatory felines is bringing them towards human habitats resulting in severe man-animal conflict.

For instance, a total of 74 straying leopards were caged from the revenue area surrounding Gir in Gujarat in 2007.

However, many are not lucky enough to survive, given that the conflict has assumed alarming proportion so much so that angry villagers bay for their blood.

Given that as many as 62 people were killed by cats between 1990-2001 in Pauri-Garwal itself speaks of the tragic fate that awaits to this shy and solitary animal.

-- BERNAMA

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