In a first, Assam to launch leopard census from Monday
To assess the population of leopards in both forest and non-forest regions, a leopard counting census will begin in Assam from Monday (January 31). The plan has been initiated in leopard-crowded regions of Amingaon by the North Kamrup Forest Division. The exercise will be conducted using the camera-trapping approach through 50 cameras installed in Changsari, AIIMS, Sila Reserve Forest, etc. surrounding Amingoan.
Why does it matter?
This is the first exclusive leopard counting census initiated in the country. Leopards are classified as "Vulnerable" on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Leopards can live in a wide variety of environments and are quite adaptable, however, their numbers are rapidly dwindling in Africa and Asia.
Camera trapping to take place over 24 weeks
The camera trapping will take place over the course of 24 weeks, with footage from each camera being taken every seven days, said Sunnydeo Choudhary, Divisional Forest Officer. North Kamrup Forest Division has established a one-week execution schedule for the census, which will include checking camera traps, studying maps, in-depth discussions with forest officials, a volunteer involvement plan, field survey, and target area selection.
Aspects of camera trapping to be discussed with stakeholders
During the week-long program, forest division officials will meet with a variety of stakeholders, including district administration, village, police, media, and education institution heads to discuss various aspects of the camera trapping mission in depth. The camera trapping will begin on February 7.
Leopard count in India grew by 63%
Last year, the government released a report which claimed that the official leopard count grew by 63% from 2014 to 2018. In 2018, forest officials estimated the number of leopards in India's tiger range states. 12,852 leopards were counted at that time (standard error range 12,172-13,535), as per the report. It was a major increase from the 7,910 leopards counted in 2014.
Illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching
Between 2015 and 2019, 596 leopard deaths in India were attributed to illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching-related activities, reports claimed. The states of Maharashtra and Uttarakhand reported the highest number of poaching cases. Skin remained the most in-demand product in the illegal wildlife trade, accounting for 69% of all seizures, while claws, teeth, and bones were also sold.
Leopards are rapidly declining in the world
Leopards have disappeared from approximately 40% of their historic African territory and more than 50% of their historic range in Asia. Leopards are already extinct in Hong Kong; Jordan; Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Singapore, Syrian Arab Republic, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan. The presence of leopards in six more nations is highly uncertain: Iraq, Korea, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Lebanon, and Mauritania.