AboutZoos, Since 2008


Four leop­ards a week enter India’s ille­gal wildlife trade

pub­lished 28 Sep­tem­ber 2012 | mod­i­fied 05 Decem­ber 2012

At least four leop­ards have been poached and their body parts entered into ille­gal wildlife trade every week for at least 10 years in India, accord­ing to TRAFFIC’s lat­est study Illu­mi­nat­ing the Blind Spot: A study on ille­gal trade in leop­ard parts in India launched today by Dr Divyab­hanus­inh Chavda, Pres­i­dent, WWF-​India.

Leopard fur-skinsThe study doc­u­ments a total of 420 seizures of leop­ard skins, bones and other body parts reported from 209 local­i­ties in 21 out of 35 ter­ri­to­ries in India dur­ing 20012010. Sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis is used to esti­mate the addi­tional lev­els of “unde­tected trade” and con­cludes that around 2,294 leop­ards were traf­ficked in India dur­ing the period — an aver­age of four ani­mals per week over the 10 year period.

Leop­ards (Pan­thera par­dus) are fully pro­tected under India’s domes­tic leg­is­la­tion, and com­mer­cial inter­na­tional trade is banned under CITES (the Con­ven­tion on Inter­na­tional Trade in Endan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

TRAFFIC’s objec­tive analy­sis has cast new light onto the sheer scale of the illicit trade in Leop­ard parts in India, which has hith­erto been over­shad­owed by the trade in another of the country’s national icons, the tiger. With­out an effec­tive strat­egy to assess and tackle the threats posed by ille­gal trade, the dan­ger is that leop­ard num­bers may decline rapidly as hap­pened pre­vi­ously to the tiger
Dr Divyab­hanus­inh Chavda, Pres­i­dent, WWF-​India »

Uttarak­hand emerged as a major source of leop­ard parts in trade, while Delhi was found to be a major epi­cen­tre of the ille­gal trade, along with adja­cent areas of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. Dr Rashid Raza, Coor­di­na­tor with TRAF­FIC in India and the lead author of the study said: “Even though reports of ille­gal trade in leop­ard body parts are dis­turbingly fre­quent, the level of threat to leop­ards in the coun­try has pre­vi­ously been unrec­og­nized, and has fallen into our col­lec­tive ‘blind spot’.”

Close to 90% of reported leop­ard part seizures in India com­prised solely of skins, mak­ing them the dom­i­nant body part found in ille­gal trade dur­ing the 10 year period. Other body parts, par­tic­u­larly bones, are known to be pre­scribed as sub­sti­tutes for tiger parts in tra­di­tional Asian med­i­cine. It is believed most leop­ard parts are smug­gled out of India to other coun­tries in Asia, often via the porous bor­der with neigh­bour­ing Nepal. Ear­lier inves­ti­ga­tions indi­cated many of the leop­ard parts found for sale in north­ern Myan­mar, north­ern Laos and the eth­nic Tibetan regions of China orig­i­nated from India.

The report rec­om­mends the estab­lish­ment of a Task Force to tackle ille­gal trade in the areas iden­ti­fied as hav­ing the high­est lev­els of leopard-​related crime, as well as bet­ter regional co-​operation between source, tran­sit and mar­ket coun­tries through ini­tia­tives such as the South Asia Wildlife Enforce­ment Net­work (SAWEN). An offi­cial data­base along the lines of Tiger­net, used for tiger con­ser­va­tion in India, would also help mon­i­tor the ille­gal leop­ard part trade. Stud­ies are also needed to assess the lev­els of threat from human-​Leopard con­flict in the coun­try, accord­ing to the report.

The leop­ard is among the most charis­matic large ani­mals in the world, and plays an impor­tant eco­log­i­cal role in the forests it inhab­its. Any increase in exter­nal mar­ket demand could eas­ily lead to a dec­i­ma­tion of leop­ard num­bers in India, but I am hope­ful this lat­est analy­sis will pro­vide the impe­tus to catal­yse effec­tive con­ser­va­tion action; par­tic­u­larly increased effec­tive­ness of law enforce­ment ini­tia­tives to cur­tail the ille­gal trade in leop­ard body parts.
(Ravi Singh, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral & CEO, WWF-​India)

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at WWF. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.

(Source: WWF News, 28.09.2012)

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