Leopards ~ The Tiger Substitute

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After pushing the tigers into the endangered list, the global tiger trade syndicate have its eyes fixed on its “substitute” the leopard, leading to their rampant slaying in the wilds of Uttarakhand, which has almost porous borders with Nepal.

The Times of India reported on Wednesday that the Uttarakhand forest department seized two more skins of leopards, taking the total tally of the feline’s skins caught in the state in the past four days to eight.

Highlighting the alarming scenario, Neeraj Shekhar, national head of TRAFFIC and World Wildlife Fund, told TOI: “The tiger trade syndicate, which is quite strong globally, is now indulging into leopard trade.

“Leopards have now almost replaced the tigers, which are being protected world over after their rampant poaching. This is the reason that the illegal trade of leopards continue in Uttarakhand.”

Shekhar stressed on the need to develop a very “well-coordinated” strategic approach with lot of resources and a “foresight” for the leopard protection mission. By resources, he meant adequate manpower to guard remote areas with intensive patrolling. He also
called for proper training of the forest staff with an emphasis on “strong” intelligence network to protect the leopards.

The latest seizure of the two leopard skins were made in the Rudraprayag district of Garhwal region. Earlier, four leopard skins were recovered in Pithoragarh while two skins from Devprayag last Saturday.

Rajiv Dhiman, the divisional forest officer of Rudraprayag, said: “After a tip-off, our team trapped the accused on the pretext of buying their consignment of leopard skins in Rudraprayag market.” Four persons were held with the consignment of the two leopard skins. The seizures were made with the help of TRAFFIC India.

Dhiman said that the forest officials were keenly observing the movement of poachers in Kedarnath and Rudraprayag forest divisions. Meanwhile, DVS Khati, chief wildlife warden, said that he would seek the help of senior officials in the state government to crack the poaching network in Uttarakhand.

Dhananjay Mohan, head of the anti-poaching cell, said: “Since it is the forest department which has caught the accused, we will be able to conduct our own investigation and reach to the root of the matter. If required, we would take help from other departments and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.”

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