Madhya Pradesh may soon lose all its leopards if an action plan is not set in place very soon to conserve them. The beautiful spotted feline once found in good numbers in Madhya Pradesh is under grave threat mainly due to road kills.
On 24th September this year, at the Raisen district in Madhya Pradesh, a vehicle ran over an adult leopard while it was dragging its kill, a half eaten cow. The carcass of the kill was was found on Jamuniya Ghati area. The accident occurred around 80 kms from the district headquarters off the Bhopal-Silwani road. The leopard incurred a fatal injury on its head due to the accident. This was the fifth leopard to be killed in Madhya Pradesh owing to collision by vehicle in the last six months.
Over a period of three years, Madhya Pradesh has lost more than 60 leopards due to road accidents, and retaliation killing to leopard attacks on humans and livestock or due to poaching. There were six cases, where the leopards were trapped, axed and electrocuted to death in order to obtain their nails and skins. At Chhatarpur and Sagar districts, crude bombs and dangerous clutch wire traps were used to kill the leopards. In Alirajpur and Dhar, in two cases, the claws of the leopards had been cut off by the poachers for their nails. In February this year, a leopard hide was discovered in the South Balaghat area which suggests another case of poaching.
During the year 2011, maximum cases of casualties (43) were recorded in Madhya Pradesh. Out of these, 17 were poaching cases from Burhanpur, Seoni, Mandla, Balaghat, Barwani, Panna, Sehore, Hoshangabad and Badwah forest areas.
Concerned over the fate of leopards wildlife activist Ajay Dubey has asked for the constitution of a special cell for their protection at a national level in a letter to the Union minister for Forest and Environment (Moef). He filed a RTI (Right to Information act) which revealed that since 2008, 138 leopards have died in Madhya Pradesh.
Additionally, wildlife experts say that the conviction level for leopard poaching cases is below 5% in Madhya Pradesh. This is because investigations are led by untrained and inexperienced forest rangers who submit week charge sheets in most cases. The officers are reluctant to register poaching cases to avoid investigation and involvement of higher authorities. More often than not, the reason for leopard deaths is therefore listed as “killed in territorial war”.
In 2013, Indore based wildlife photographer, Amit Kanungo pointed out about the impending dismal fate of leopards, which is becoming more and more obvious with the passage of time. Kanungo claimed that until 2009, the leopards were easily spotted in the forest areas around the Indore division. But in the past four years, he has not come across even a single leopard leading him to believe that these cats are in dire danger of disappearing completely from Madhya Pradesh.
Similar observation by other wildlife activists has impelled them to call for conservation measures for leopards to be carried out in line with those for Tigers. However it remains to be seen, how quickly measures are taken for the protection of this wild cat in danger.