IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 1st Jan
“Good things come to people who wait, but better things come to those who go out and get them.” —Anonymous
EDITORIAL HUNT #294 :“Status Of Leopards Report 2020 Analysis | UPSC”
Status Of Leopards Report 2020 Analysis | UPSC
Sanjay Gubbi works on leopard ecology and conservation in Karnataka and is the author of the book, ‘Second Nature: Saving Tiger Landscapes in the Twenty First Century’.
A leopard count with a missing benchmark number
Assessing numbers of cats in select sites and monitoring areas they occupy over swathes will ensure a better overview
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3 : Conservation of Flora and Fauna
Just like Tiger and Lion , Leopards have always achieved less fame and protection status .Status of leopards in India mentions increase in the number of Leopards by 60 percent. Critically examine the threats and conservation opportunities. -(GS 3)
- What is needed ?
- An example from Karnataka
- Misleading facts
- Way Forward
- Unlike the fanfare and debates that would have rolled out with tiger numbers, there was hardly any discourse about this species.
- Like always, the leopard loses out to its larger cousin.
- To get a population estimate of an elusive carnivore at the geographical scale of 21 States in India is tricky and requires colossal effort.
- On this front, the entire research team has to be congratulated for completing this massive task.
WHAT IS NEEDED
- SPECIES OF INTERESTS : Most times, the goal of species conservation is to protect and increase the population of the species of interest.
- SCIENTIFIC MONITORING : In this direction, scientific monitoring of increase or a decrease in numbers over the years will determine whether the conservation efforts undertaken to preserve the species are bearing fruit.
- THE REPORT : ‘Status of leopards in India, 2018’ distinctly mentions that the figure is the ‘minimum number’, the way it was launched has depicted that the country has 12,852 leopards.
BY-PRODUCT OF TIGER ESTIMATE
- FOREST HABITAT : This Status of leopards in India Report focused mostly on forested habitats where tigers are found, as it was a by-product of the all-India tiger estimate.
- MISSED POPULATION : Other leopard habitats such as rocky outcrops, smaller dry forests, Himalayan, agricultural landscapes where leopards are known to be found in good numbers were not a part of this exercise.
- NORTH EAST REGION : Similarly, much of Northeast India was excluded from the study.Hence the area studied by itself does not represent a true pan-India leopard population.
- RESOURCES AND MANPOWER : Leopard census requires enormous resources and time to carry out a study on the scale of a large nation such as ours.
CASE STUDY : KARNATAKA FOREST LANDSCAPE
- CAMERA TRAPPING : Camera trapping exercise in the BRT-MM Hills-Cauvery-Bannerghatta protected areas revealed a leopard population of 267 individuals which is not included in the report.
- TOP PREDATORS : This landscape also has two competing large predators — the tiger and the dhole — who keep leopard numbers under check.
- SMALL HABITATS : In Devarayanadurga Reserved Forests and its adjoining areas, studies have showed a population of 15 leopards in a small area of 70 square kilometres.
- The claim that “leopard numbers increased by 60%” also needs to be closely looked into.
- In 2018, the study was expanded to 21 States with a study area of 121,337 square kilometres, which shows a spatial increase in the size of the study area by 25%.
- Even the number of camera trap locations has increased by nearly threefold (9,735 to 26,838 camera trapping locations).
- So, comparing results from 2014 with 2018, and hailing it as a 60% increase is quite misleading.
THE MAIN THREATS
- Habitat loss due to mining and quarrying
- Poaching for body parts
- Mortality due to vehicular collisions
- Accidental deaths due to snares set for catching wild prey all seem to be impacting the conservation of this rosette-patterned cat.
MUST NEEDED STEPS
- MONITORING AND CONSERVATION : If we can assess leopard numbers in a few selected sites and monitor the area occupied by them over large swathes, it will perhaps give us a better overview of leopard conservation efforts.
- EVALUATION AND HEADCOUNT : Overall, we need a benchmark number against which we can evaluate the trend in leopard numbers and threats to this carnivore.