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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Telling Numbers: Roadkill and extinction risk for leopards in North India

The leopard population of North India is at highest risk among four animal populations identified as being the most vulnerable to extinction in the next 50 years if observed roadkill levels persist.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
November 4, 2021 11:33:24 am
At current roadkill rates, the leopard’s North Indian population is at 83% higher risk of extinction, study finds. (Express Archive)

The leopard (Panthera pardus) faces an 83% increased risk of extinction in North India due to roadkill, according to a new international study that quantifies the threat posed by roads to the survival of animal populations around the world. The study has been published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography. (bit.ly/3CMuvkb)

The leopard population of North India is at highest risk among four animal populations identified as being the most vulnerable to extinction in the next 50 years if observed roadkill levels persist. It is followed by the maned wolf and the little spotted cat, both of Brazil, and the brown hyena of southern Africa. At an 83% increased risk, the study estimates the time to the North Indian leopard population’s extinction at 33 years (see table).

Source: Grilo et al, Global Ecology and Biogeography

Other populations found highly vulnerable include the lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus) and sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) in South India.

Using existing roadkill data for 392 mammal species on six continents, the researchers made their calculations based on population density, roadkill rates, sexual maturity age, litter size etc. For the North Indian leopard population, the study site covered Uttarakhand’s Rajaji National Park and Haridwar Conservation area. If at least 20% of the population has been killed by roadkill, the risk of local extinction can increase by 10%, the researchers said.

“Results of this study have implications for mammalian conservation and road mitigation worldwide. Our analyses bring attention to Sub-Saharan Africa and south-eastern Asia as regions where roads can lead to loss of mammalian biodiversity and thus, areas where future road development and road mitigation need to be carefully considered,” the paper says.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognises roadkill as a threat to 10 mammalian species, but the study notes that these were not among those found most vulnerable by the researchers.

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