At least 260 leopards were poached in the country between 2015 and 2018, with Uttarakhand accounting for 60 cases and Himachal Pradesh reporting another 49, according to information given to Parliament by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). Of this, 64 cases of leopard poaching were recorded in 2015, 83 in 2016, 47 in 2017 and 66 till October 2018, the data tabled in the Lok Sabha earlier this month show. In Chhattisgarh, M.P. Central Indian States like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh also recorded a high number of cases of leopard poaching in the past four years, at 25 and 21 respectively.
Poaching of leopards was reported by 19 States including Assam and West Bengal in the east, Punjab in the West and Telangana and Tamil Nadu in the south. Replying to a question by BJP MP Rattan Lal Kataria, the MoEFCC said the figures had been compiled from data furnished by State enforcement agencies as the management and protection of wildlife, including leopards, is primarily the responsibility of States and Union Territories.
It added that information on the killing of leopards by villagers was not collated by the ministry. Wildlife organisations, however, estimate leopard poaching to be at a much higher level based on the seizures of body parts. According to the Delhi based Wildlife Protection Society of India, 163 cases of poaching and seizures of body parts were recorded in 2018, an increase from 159 in 2017. Experts point out that since leopards live in close proximity to human habitation and are found all across the country, the cases of leopard poaching too are spread countrywide with a significant number of such incidents not showing up in government records.
There are also several incidents of leopard deaths on account of road kills, particularly in States such as Maharashtra and Karnataka. Vidya Athreya, an ecologist at Wildlife Conservation Society who has worked on the human-leopard conflict, stresses on the need to evolve proactive policy measures for ensuring the protection of wild animals like leopards that live outside protected areas.