Mar 8

At least one leopard dies every day in India, according to a report released last week by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). Half of those deaths are caused by poachers, who target these magnificent big cats for their skins, claws and other body parts.

Photo of African leopard

African leopard

The tip of the iceberg

WPSI say that at least 356 Indian leopards died in 2011, with poaching accounting for 52% of all the deaths recorded. However, according to WPSI, these figures are likely to be just a fraction of the real numbers of leopards killed each year in India.

The cases that we have reported are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Anish Andheria, of Sanctuary Asia, which helped collect the data, “The loss could be three to five times more because most of the incidents happened outside the forest range and also due to improper intelligence gathering.”

Photo of Indian leopard (black morph)

Indian leopard (black morph)

Causes of death

Although poaching was the single biggest cause of death in 2011, it appears that other human activities may also play a significant role in leopard mortality. Around 12% of Indian leopards were killed last year as a result of human-leopard conflict, while a further 4% died after unsuccessful attempts to rescue the animals from human threats, such as farmers’ snares. Collisions with vehicles caused 8% of Indian leopard deaths last year, and around 5% of deaths were as a result of interactions with other animals, while the remaining 18% of leopards died from unknown causes.

According to WPSI, 30% of the leopard deaths occurred in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, which is also the state with the highest number of poached tigers.

Leopard deaths continue rising

Despite being protected under India’s Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, the number of Indian leopards killed each year has been rising steadily over the past decade. In addition to the 356 leopards killed in 2011, there were 180 leopard deaths in 2010, 161 in 2009 and 126 in 2007. This year appears to be following a similar trend, with around 70 leopards killed so far in 2012, half by poachers.

Photo of African leopard standing

African leopard standing on treetrunk

World’s leopards under increasing pressure

Leopards are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, although their range has become smaller in recent years and their populations increasingly fragmented.

Despite being listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and being protected by law in most range states, leopards continue to be threatened by poaching, illegal trade and habitat loss. All nine subspecies of leopard as classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.

Read the full article in the Scientific American.

Find out more about the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

View more leopard images on ARKive.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

  • Marie (March 8th, 2012 at 3:43 pm):

    I think something must be done to protect those animals. Before it’s too late.

  • Valerie Avent (March 9th, 2012 at 2:45 pm):

    Please Save The Leopards before they are wiped out. Like everything else they will be all killed for humans.

  • elena (March 14th, 2012 at 12:10 am):

    what i dont understand why the laws have not been up graded,changed in countries where poaching,canned hunting exist!!! We need the commitment of governments for anti-poaching efforts to work…Greater communication between enforcement agencies is needed. Intelligence gathering must be increased and the organized smuggling routes identified.
    Governments globally need to send a clear message that poaching will not be tolerated no more by stopping the ivory trade and fur trade especially when it come sto endangered species!!!!