LEOPARDS are one of the most neglected and persecuted big wild cat species across the Middle East, Central Asia, Eurasia, China, South and South-East Asia that deserve serious transcontinental conservation initiative and support.
The World Wide Fund for Nature 2018 big wild cat poster has clearly identified that various subspecies of leopards distributed across the continents of Asia and Africa are showing an alarming decline in their population numbers; and some subspecies are believed to have already gone extinct across the sub-Saharan and North African region as well as around the Middle East.
The decline is caused by extensive loss of leopard habitats, indiscriminate poaching and repeated conflicts with humans encroaching on premier leopard habitats, rail and/or highway accidents and acute low of major leopard prey species in the ecosystems in which they barely survive.
The Asiatic leopard subspecies are mostly data-deficient. Lack of comprehensive surveys does not provide conservators with ground level information regarding the proper distribution of different leopard subspecies across Asia. No proper geographic distribution, range overlaps or credible population dynamics data are easily available or accessible for review and analysis. Even where the data are available, their credibility has been questioned from various quarters.
The South Asian leopard distributed across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh is most possibly the largest subspecies of Asiatic leopards based on the strength of their numbers and widespread distribution across vast stretches of South Asia.
Unless serious measures are taken with implementation at the ground level, the various Asiatic subspecies of leopards, namely Arabian, Persian, Amur, Indian (South Asian), Indo Chinese, Javan and Sri Lankan leopards, are becoming increasingly vulnerable to anthropogenic exploitation, greed, negligence, unwanted interference and fear.
SAIKAT KUMAR BASU