Indore: Madhya Pradesh roars the loudest and celebrates the largest the population of another wildcat - leopard. The graceful and powerful species made its mark in MP’s territory with 3,421 leopards recorded throughout.
Madhya Pradesh is the only state accounting for 26.62 per cent of entire leopard population in the country. Amazingly, the number is higher than the combined population in other regions of the country including Shivalik Hills & Gangetic Plains, Western Ghats and North East Hills, and Brahmaputra Flood Plains. The last region Central India & Eastern Ghats has the highest number of leopards recorded. The region has 8,071 leopards in the country.
A total of 5,240 adult individual leopards were photo-captured. The overall leopard population in tiger range landscape of India was estimated at 12,852. Out of a total 10,602 surveyed grids in India, leopard presence was recorded for 3,475 grids.
The census report said, “Leopard population has increased in all states of the central India when compared to previous estimates of 2014. The state of Madhya Pradesh had the largest leopard population in India.”
Further, it added that due to its adaptive nature and behavioural plasticity they are reported to persist in human-dominated landscape, and are more prone to human-wildlife conflict. “Other major threats for leopard in this landscape are habitat fragmentation and poaching,” the report said.
Highest genetic diversity also seen in Central India
The genetic diversity as measured by the mean number of alleles and allelic richness was maximum in central India, while variation in all other landscapes was comparable.
Genetic analysis of these individuals indicates that leopard populations across the country are not strictly genetically structured, as opposed to tiger populations which show structuring.
Through these results, it is interesting to note that while tigers across the same space are genetically structured, leopard populations are genetically diverse, with genetic structure seemingly driven only by separation in space.
Leopard distribution in central India and Eastern Ghats
Leopards are widely distributed in the forest of Central Indian landscape. The leopard population for Rajasthan is reported only for the tiger occupied Protected Areas i.e. the Mukundara, Ranthambore and Sariska Landscapes.
Leopard population in central India can be distinguished into four large contiguous patches:
Central block which extends across entire Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odhisa, Maharashtra and Northern Telangana.
Southern block covering Amrabad Tiger Reserve, Nagarjunsagar –Srisailam Tiger Reserve, and extending into Sri Venkateshwara Wildlife Sanctuary.
Western block which comprises of Western Ghats of Maharashtra (Sahyadri hills) and areas of adjoining Deccan.
Northern block comprises of Sariska, Ranthambore, Mukundhara tiger reserves and northern Madhya Pradesh comprised of forests and Protected Areas in this part of state.
Leopards occupied 2,265 grids. During this estimation, a minimum 2,601 of adult and sub-adult unique individuals were identified from the 26,367 photographs.
The total population of leopard within the sampled forest landscape was estimated at 8,071 (SE range 7,654-8,488). High densities of leopards were reported from Protected Areas and some forest tract comprising of corridors.
State ---- Leopards
Andhra Pradesh ---- 492
Telangana ---- 334
Chhattisgarh ---- 852
Jharkhand --- 46
Madhya Pradesh ---- 3421
Maharashtra --- 1,690
Total Central India & Eastern Ghats---- 8,071