Leopards in India are undoubtedly the new big cat on the road to extinction. It is the least attended big cat as the entire thrust is on the tigers. It is however correct that with the launch of project tiger, all other animals will also be protected. But indeed Leopards are the most ignored and affected big cats.
Why leopards are in danger?
Leopards are the worst sufferers of loss of habitats and illicit wildlife trade.These big cats are most adaptable in nature and are known for living near human habitations. In substance the worst affected forest parts are the forests on the periphery of the preserved areas which have suffered the effect of large scale deforestation.The ever soaring human population has adversely affected these areas and usurped these areas for purposes of habitations.Leopards inhabit preserved areas like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries also besides peripheries of preserved areas.
The leopards are forced to adapt to live in forest fringes because of competition with tigers which are much more powerful than leopards.Besides the loss of habitat ,leopards are the target of rising illicit wildlife trade. With the tiger number dwindling in wild areas ,the demand is supplied by making leopards as the target.These two main issues are the reasons for declining leopard population.
Why no project leopard is needed?
The trend of creating exclusive project for each an every main animal is not correct approach.First it was project tiger in 1973 and project elephant in 1992.If this approach continues then we will have more than 100 exclusive projects with inter-related and overlapping objectives and this would create a complete confusion in the wildlife world. There will be numerous authorities with parallel mandates leading to blame games. No one would take the responsibility for failures and the whole purpose shall be defeated.
What needs to be done?
- The habitat of these big cats need to be protected so far as possible.
- A swift and efficient redressal mechanism should be implemented in case of livestock killing in these big cats.
- Similar mechanism is needed in case of human killing by these cats and amount of compensation should be reasonable not a meager as the tendency in our country.
- People should be educated about the value of these animals for our own survival.
- Forest staff should be motivated and properly trained. The department should have all necessary equipments to handle cases of man-animal conflict.
If we take these necessary steps then nothing like project leopard is required. What is required is sincere efforts in right direction not the creation of project for each and every animal.