The state has lost more leopards in the past seven months than in the entire year in 2017. According to data collected by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), 57 leopards were found dead in Maharashtra till August this year while 40 leopards had been found dead for the entire year in 2017.
“This year, we found more leopard deaths in the state in just seven months. The animals could have died due to several reasons, like poaching, road accidents or even natural causes,” said Tito Joseph, the programme coordinator, WPSI.
According to data compiled by the WPSI, at least 11 leopards were killed by poachers this year. But experts said the figures could be higher. “The poaching figures are generally only five per cent of the actual cases. It is a criminal activity so, many instances might go unreported,” said Vidya Athreya, an ecologist specialising in man-animal conflict.
The state has also lost 12 leopards in road accidents and 16 to natural causes. Five leopards have been killed by villagers and six leopard skins have been found.
“In places like Maharashtra, leopards live near humans. So, the government needs to plan. To reduce road kill incidents, they need to put in mitigation measures. In Vidarbha region, where they have high speed broad roads, they can construct underpasses and green corridors,” Athreya added.
Speaking about the number of leopard deaths she said: “The numbers are high for both years. But it may just be that they have found more dead leopards this year.”
According to WPSI data, so far this year, 300 leopard deaths have been recorded across the country. The highest number of leopard deaths have been recorded in Uttarakhand. Last year, the numbers were pegged at 440.