Dehradun, October 5
Uttarakhand continues to get a bad name when it comes to leopard conservation. A study by Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, reveals that Uttarakhand has emerged as a major centre of trade in leopard body parts in trade in the country. The startling revelation comes at a time when Uttarakhand forest authorities are pledging for leopard conservation in the ongoing wildlife week celebrations in the state. Uttarakhand, since its inception more than a decade back, has lost a total of 78 leopards to poaching.

A leader in field of conservation since its establishment way back in 1976, Traffic has done a study entitled "Illuminating the Blind Spot: A study on illegal trade in leopard parts in India," exposing the plight of leopards in the country, and has identified Uttarakhand as a major source for leopard body parts that are in trade.
"Uttarakhand has emerged as a major source of leopard parts in trade. Leopard parts are smuggled out of India to other countries in Asia, often via the porous border with neighbouring Nepal," the report stated. Significantly, Uttarakhand, with substantial population of leopards, shares its porous borders with Nepal and thus smuggling out leopard body parts from the hill state to Nepal perfectly suits the poachers.
Traffic study at the national perspective reveals the plight of leopards, asserting that at least four leopards have been poached every week for at least 10 years in India, and their body parts sold by the illegal wildlife trade. Traffic today is a global network, research-driven and action-oriented organisation committed to delivering innovative and practical conservation solutions based on the latest information.
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 cooperation between source, transit and market countries through initiatives such as the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network.
It calls for an official database along the lines of "Tigernet," used for tiger conservation in India. It would also help monitor the illegal leopard part trade. Studies are needed to assess the levels of threat from human-leopard conflict in the country.
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 unrecognised, and has fallen into our collective blind spot."
Interestingly, the Uttarakhand wildlife authorities had some time back come up with Special Operation Groups at Rajaji National Park and Corbett National Park to check illegal wildlife trade but so far have met with little success.

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