Leopard Count in India - 12,000-14,000 as per the first census
September 7, 2015

The first ever count of Leopards in India, shows its population at 7,910 in and around tiger habitats across the country, except the northeast.

The leopards were counted using the methods of camera trapping and gathering other evidence of their presence, and then extrapolating the numbers to cover the entire forest landscape.

Yadvendradev V Jhala, the lead scientist of the tiger census, who presented the leopard figures at Wildlife Institute of India's annual research seminar in Dehradun last week said "There are leopards outside the areas we covered. Based on these numbers, we estimate India's total leopard population to be in the range of 12,000 to 14,000. He also added that "Most of the leopard populations are contiguous, ensuring a healthy genetic exchange. So, leopards do not face the problems of isolated populations that plague Indian tigers".

He said as this was the first census conducted there were no means to conclude if the Leopard population was increasing or decreasing, he said "But leopards are doing far better than tigers because they can survive in scrubs and human-impacted forests as well. That's why they are not in imminent danger as the tigers."

The census numbers give a more accurate picture of the density and distribution of the leopards, which were previously estimated to be between 10,000 and 45,000 in the country.

The study concluded that Leopard population was well distributed across the country, and the numbers indicate that leopard population is "quite healthy".

The census covered a total of 3,50,000 sq km of forested habitat across the Shivalik hills and Gangetic plains, central India and the Western Ghats landscape. As many as 17,143 pictures of 1,647 individual leopards were obtained during the exercise that covered most forested landscapes, even the low-grade revenue forests.

Jhala pointed that "There's an impression that leopards are everywhere. That's not the case. Leopards need a protected patch of forest to occur in the vicinity. They aren't found in purely agricultural stretches,".

The Statewise population is as follows -

Madhya Pradesh - 1,817 emerged as the top leopard state in the country
Karnataka - 1,129
Maharashtra - 905
Chhattisgarh - 846
Tamil Nadu - 815
Uttarakhand - 703 (approximate as the census did not cover the higher Himalayas)

The census also did not cover Gujarat, parts of Rajasthan and east India, and the entire northeast.

He also added that "We have included 34 leopards that were captured in camera traps in the northeast. The region could not be properly covered because all forest areas were not sampled in phase I of the census by the respective forests departments,".