#GS 03 Biodiversity Conservation
- Leopard is the smallest of the Big Cats belonging to the genus Panthera, which includes the Tiger, Leopard, Jaguar, Lion, and Snow Leopard.
- However, they are the most adaptive amongst its family with an ability to cope with a variety of habitats.
- It is a nocturnal animal that hunts at night and eats smaller herbivores like the chital, hog deer, and wild boar that live in its range.
- Leopards often suffer from melanism in case of which the animal’s entire skin, including its spots, turns black.
- A melanistic leopard is commonly misidentified as a distinct species called black panther or as a jaguar.
Population and Habitat of Leopards
- The leopard is found in all forest types in India, from alpine coniferous forests in the north to temperate deciduous and tropical rainforests in the south.
- However, the highest number of 8,071 leopards are found in central India and the Eastern Ghats.
- The leopard population was estimated to be approximately 8,000 in 2014, but has since grown to 12,852 by 2018.
- The loss of habitat due to encroachment and rising urbanisation has increased the instances of man-wildlife conflict in case of leopards.
- Scientific Name: Panthera pardus fusca
- IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
- CITES: Appendix I
- Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972: Schedule I
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