The serious question – how many dead leopards?

Police make public leopard hides at the District Police Office in Kanchanpur, Nepal, three of countless leopards killed in India and Nepal over the last 20 years.

by Jack Kinross

Yesterday in conjunction with a post on this site, Leopard Watch, our monthly email, was sent out.  As is usually the case there were replies and questions.  One query from a long time supporter, knowing I was working on leopard poaching figures (when time permits) was asking how many leopards did I think were being killed a year in South Asia.  The question was specific to the sub species panthera pardus fusca, the Indian leopard.

I replied that at this stage I could only give information based on figures from India and Nepal.  I also mentioned that my data mining was incomplete, there is still a lot of work to be done.  However the following figures give an indication:

This Century there have been in excess 4180 leopards killed based on body part seizures alone in India and Nepal.  Customs authorities in India multiply known offences by ten to estimate the size of an illegal trade.

If we divide the figure by 18 to give a yearly estimate we get in excess of 230 per year.  That figure in itself is disturbing let alone if the Customs authorities estimate are used.  My own feeling is that we lose in excess of a leopard a day through India and Nepal to poachers.

The real answer to the question is of course we can’t be exact.  The only thing we can say for sure is that it is unstainable.  The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) use a figure of 4900 leopards traded in Asia since 2000.  Based on that then 80% are from the India and Nepal region.

I finished my answer with we’ve got a real problem and there’s not enough being done about it, not enough people truly care about the leopard.  If things continue this way regional extinctions will continue and total extinction of P.p.fusca is possible.  When one considers the size of each leopard’s range then the effect on ecosystems every year is deadly serious.

I do have hope that vast areas such as the Annapurna, as I posted yesterday, can be strongholds for the leopard.  It remains to be seen how many people truly have the will to make sure that happens.