CJ: Shishir Srivastava
Indian leopards are under threat due to rampant poaching for its skin and villagers killing it whenever a leopard strays in areas of human settlements. The major threat to the leopard species is the shrinking of the forest land..
THE INDIAN leopard is found in parts of central and northern India and in the surrounding forests of Bangladesh, Nepal and southern China. Apart from the natural threat, which leopards continuously faces from powerful animals like tigers and lions, the man made threat to this species could soon wipe it out from the face of this planet in the decades to come.
Recently, in the city of Mysore, a leopard that had strayed within the city limits was beaten to death by humans. This is not the first time that a leopard has been killed after it encroached in human inhabited areas. In the year 2008 itself, there have been more than five cases of leopards being beaten up or burnt by villagers, whenever a leopard entered small towns or villages. Even as the population of leopards is not high, leopard cubs are often attacked by tigers and lions. As far as poaching is considered, the leopard is under threat for its beautiful skin.
The threat to leopards stems from the fact that we have been encroaching upon its territory for long. Because of loss of habitat, leopards often stray into areas of human settlement, which proves fatal to the leopards.
Under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (IWPA), hunting or attacking the leopard is illegal as it is an endangered species. It is a punishable offence with a minimum sentence of up to three years of imprisonment or a fine of Rs 10,000. But still poaching is rampant in parts of Madhya Pradesh and southern Aravalli range. This can be proved from the data collected regarding the seizures made by the police or the forest department of India in the past few years.
The forest department on its part has been trying to set up traps so that leopards can be stopped from entering human areas and can be taken and placed in environment friendly areas. But the rate at which deforestation is happening, the leopard continue to lose out its habitat and it would take a lot of effort on the part of the forest department to prevent any mishaps.
Whenever a leopard enters a village, it has to face death. In the past six years, more than 60 leopards have been killed by villagers when they treaded into their territory. If the leopards too start attacking every human being who enters the forest then we would realise our mistake. Humans are never the preferred or the natural prey of leopards, but when the leopard has no way to go and nothing to eat, it could turn into a man eater.
The major threat to the leopard species is the shrinking of the forest land. Once the leopard finds itself limited in a small forest space, with no natural prey, it has to tread on to alien paths and whenever the leopard does that it has very less chances of survival. If this continues, the leopard would have no chance of survival. The forest department has to make sincere efforts to maintain or increase the forest areas of the country. Killings of leopards would continue if strict laws are not enforced in order to curb poaching. It’s time to save the Indian leopard from extinction or else it too would become an animal seen only in pictures and videos for the generations to come.