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 victims of habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. These big cats are the most adaptable in nature and are known to live near human habitation. Basically the worst affected part of the forest is the forest on the periphery of the protected area which has suffered from large-scale deforestation. The ever-increasing human population has affected this area and seized this area for residential purposes. Leopards inhabit protected areas such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries as well as on the outskirts of protected areas.
The leopard was forced to adapt to live on the outskirts of the forest Pulau Panjang Berau because of competition with tigers who are much stronger than leopards. In addition to habitat loss, leopards are being targeted by an increasing illegal wildlife trade. As the number of tigers in the wild decreases, demand is supplied by targeting leopards. These two main things are the cause of the decline in the 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.