The leopard faces an 83% increased risk of extinction in North India due to roadkill, according to a new international study that quantifies the threat posed by roads to the survival of animal populations around the world. The study has been published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.
The leopard population of North India is at highest risk among four animal populations identified as being the most vulnerable to extinction in the next 50 years if observed roadkill levels persist. It is followed by the maned wolf and the little spotted cat, both of Brazil, and the brown hyena of southern Africa. At an 83% increased risk, the study estimates the time to the North Indian leopard population’s extinction at 33 years .
Using existing roadkill data for 392 mammal species on six continents, the researchers made their calculations based on population density, roadkill rates, sexual maturity age, litter size etc. For the North Indian leopard population, the study site covered Uttarakhand’s Rajaji National Park and Haridwar Conservation area. If at least 20% of the population has been killed by roadkill, the risk of local extinction can increase by 10%, the researchers said
The Indian leopard is also found in Bhutan, Nepal, and parts of Pakistan. It inhabits dry deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, northern coniferous forests, and temperate forests.
In 2015, an estimated 7,910 of the 12,000-14,000 leopards in India lived in and around tiger habitats. By 2020, the population in the forested tiger range landscapes was estimated at 12,172 to 13,535 leopards.