The Indian leopard is protected by Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. In India, however, a leopard’s death does not make the news, and wildlife experts estimate that the country loses approximately six leopards for every tiger killed. The species was also reclassified from the “near threatened” to the “vulnerable” category on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red Data List due to a steady decline in the world leopard population over the years.
The Indian Leopard has bigger rosettes than the other subspecies, and its coat is lighter in deserts, greyer in colder climates, and more ochre in rainforests. Rosettes, like other leopard subspecies, have a pattern that is unique to each individual and may be used to distinguish them. Males are bigger and heavier than females, and they are sexually dimorphic. Indian Leopards, like other leopard subspecies, are solitary predators who stay well-hidden at night but come down from trees to hunt during the day. They are more prone to haul their kills up trees where they coexist with rival predators such as Bengal Tigers, Striped Hyenas, and Dhole. They are opportunistic hunters with big heads and powerful jaw muscles, developed for strength rather than speed, and designed to kill medium-sized herbivores. The Indian Leopard’s diet consists mostly of Chital, Sambar, and Langur species, although they are also known to feed on Spotted Deer, Nilai, Wild Pig, cow, hare, dog, and porcupine. Because Indian Leopards are strong climbers that rely on trees for cover, they may be found in a variety of wooded environments, including the rainforest, dry deciduous forest, temperate forest, and northern coniferous forest.
The national estimate of 12,852 leopards, according to a recent study, is 60 percent more than the 2014 estimate of 7,910. Madhya Pradesh leads the way with 3,421 leopards, followed by Karnataka with 1,783 leopards and Maharashtra with 1,690 leopards.
Leopards were discovered in both prey-rich protected regions and multi-use woods, according to the research. Pattern recognition software was used to identify 5,240 adult individual leopards from 51,337 leopard images, according to the report.
According to the government report in 2018, the Western Ghats harbored 3387 leopards, Bramhaputra Basin harbored 141 leopards, Central India and Eastern Ghats harbored 8071 leopards and Gangetic Plains harbored 1253.
The leopard population in India’s tiger range areas was predicted to be between 12,172 and 13,535 individuals in 2020. Elevations below 2,600 m (8,500 ft) were measured in the Shivalik Hills and Gangetic plains in Central India, as well as the Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats, and the Brahmaputra River basin and hills in Northeast India.
Leopards displayed cathemeral activity patterns, positive co-occurrence patterns, and considerable geographical and temporal overlap with their major prey, the wild pig, according to the results of 6413 video trap nights in 187 sites. Leopards, on the other hand, have relatively little geographical and temporal overlap with their secondary prey, the common langur. Leopards stayed away from people and had little geographical and temporal overlap with them. Our data suggest that leopard behavior is driven by a trade-off between prey consumption and avoiding anthropogenic disturbances such as human activities (Palei et al., 2021).
In terms of frequency of occurrence, the Indian Leopard’s animal-based diet included both wild (51.75%) and domestic (7.39%) prey, as well as plant species (31.47 percent). Small animals (rodents, two mongoose species, Asian palm squirrel, and Cape hare), birds, insects, and snails were among the wild prey. Poultry fowl, sheep, goats, and dogs were among the domestic prey. Summer saw a larger intake of wild prey (n = 31 scats), whereas winter saw a higher intake of domestic prey (n = 37 scats). In the summer, the dietary niche width was 14.84, compared to 10.67 in the winter. A chi-square test revealed a significant variation in the leopard cat’s seasonal food consumption (Fatima et al., 2021).
Leopard density rose with high road density, high terrain roughness, and habitats with a high percentage of agriculture and natural vegetation, according to studies by Rather et al. (2021).
Sources and references: https://www.worldlandtrust.org/species/mammals/indian-leopard/