As the number of tigers decline, Indian wildlife authorities believe recent seizures of leopard-skins suggest that poachers are increasingly on the prowl for the country’s other big cat.
According to the New Delhi-based nonprofit Wildlife Protection Society of India, at least 141 leopards have fallen to poaching so far in 2008, compared to 24 tigers killed in the same period. About 27 leopard skins have been taken in just the past few months, which conservationists say is evidence of a spike in poaching.
“The situation is serious,” said Tito Joseph, program manager at the wildlife society, which has tracked poacher arrests and animal-skin seizures in India for more than a decade. Authorities seize between 150 to 200 leopard skins and bodies from around the country every year, implying a steady market for leopard skins and parts.
But the increased number of seizures may be due to improved wildlife enforcement and agency coordination, rather than an actual rise in leopard killings, said Ramesh Pandey, deputy director of the government’s new Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.
Even so “there is no doubt that the leopard is under threat,” Pandey said.
In addition to encouraging donations to their efforts, The Wildlife Protection Society of India asks those concerned with the fate of the big cats to contact Indian authorities to voice concern.