Saturday, October 1, 2011

Uttarakhand- A Killing Zone for Leopards

An Indian leopard

The state of Uttarakhand in northern India is reputed to be one of the most beautiful places in the subcontinent. Situated under the shadows of the Himalayas, this heavenly oasis is home to several Hindu temples and holy cities giving it the nickname "The Land of Gods." But amid the serenity, a dark shadow looms over the horizon. With both mountain and forest habitat making up the natural beauty, Uttarakhand is a haven for wildlife. And it is the abundance of wild animals, which has made this picturesque hill region prone to poaching. Among the animals targeted are leopards. In 2011 alone, Uttarakhand witnessed over 136 registered poaching cases involving leopards. But out of that figure, only 51 were reported. In two separate incidents, three leopard skins were confiscated in the last ten days. One was seized Thursday by the Uttarakhand Special Task Force (STF) in Dehradun, resulting in the arrest of two people. Two others were confiscated along with a gallbladder of a Himalayan black bear, a musk gland from a musk deer, and other animal body parts in the town of Uttarkashi. The strike was carried out by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). On September 21st, three poachers were arrested and a leopard skin was seized from their possession in the city of Rishikesh.
Leopard skins

I'm very much appalled by the fact that leopards are not being given the kind of attention its relatives the lion and the tiger are receiving. According to this article, the conservation of leopards is more or less clubbed with that of tigers. Unlike tigers, leopards inhabit almost every corner of the subcontinent making them the most successful big cats in the world. However, it is this adaptability that has made them vulnerable to persecution by people in areas where there are occasional man-leopard conflicts. But compared to tigers and other endangered species, there has never been a leopard census carried out determine numbers of these countrywide cats within and outside protected areas. This, in my opinion, is truly one of the major flaws with the conservation system in India. Leopards are in the same grave threat as tigers and several other endangered species in India. Figures indicate that more numbers of leopards are killed than tigers. Last year, a total of 180 animals were slaughtered across the nation. I personally feel that leopards in India should be required the same kind of help that other endangered species like tigers are receiving. There are places like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Middle East, and parts of North Africa where lions and tigers disappeared thousands of years ago leaving the leopard to be the top predator. But what is the situation of its population in those regions these days? Is it being fully protected by any conservation groups? Whatever the reason, it is only in India where this cat shares its habitat with its larger cousins in present day. Unfortunately, it has not been receiving the same kind of protection as lions and tigers. These animals are facing the same threats as their larger relatives. They are ruthlessly hunted for their pelts like tigers, and are victims of the illegal wildlife trade. It appears that people seem to care more about the plight of lions and tigers. To them, their ranges are more limited compared to the leopard. To me, that is downright outrageous! Leopards should be treated equally in terms of protection like their more powerful cousins. Because like them, they are also suffering in the hands of greedy poachers who would go through any lengths to make fast money out of their pelts and any other body parts.

View article here 

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