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Report on leopard sightings to be released soon

A leopard caught on a camera trap in Bhadravathi forest division, Karnataka.

A leopard caught on a camera trap in Bhadravathi forest division, Karnataka.   | Photo Credit: File photo

As part of its global tiger census, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is set to release a dedicated report on leopard sightings by the month-end.

The last formal census on India’s leopards was conducted in 2014 which estimated the cat’s population at between 12,000 and 14,000. They also estimated 8,000 leopards in the vicinity of tiger habitat.

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While the quadrennial tiger survey is the centre-piece of the WII and environment ministry-coordinated undertaking, the exercise also estimates the population of other animals by relying on camera trap images.

This year, the survey deployed an unprecedented number of camera traps, experts associated with the survey said. There were nearly 26,838 camera trap locations, across 72,000 sq km of tiger habitat, yielded 34 million images of which 76,651 and 51,777 were of tigers and leopards respectively, the tiger survey, released last week, noted.

“We submitted two reports, one for tiger and for leopards. The task was humongous because leopards are also found outside forest areas,” said Qamar Qureshi, senior scientist at the WII and one of the authors of the tiger survey.

Methodology

Like the previous surveyin 2014-15, forest departments in 18 States with tiger reserves conducted the study, dividing protected areas into 15-square-kilometre grids to look for leopard scat and other signs of the animal.

Where there were indications of leopards, camera traps were set up and the number of leopard images were recorded. Repeats were excluded. Based on these numbers and spread, the researchers then extrapolated the leopard population.

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Critics had pointed out that conducting a leopard survey, along with the tiger survey, is problematic as the former is adapted to living on the edge of forests and human habitats, unlike the tiger which is an elusive creature. This had led to gross errors in estimating the true numbers of leopards.

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2020 12:20:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/report-on-leopard-sightings-to-be-released-soon/article32263109.ece

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