More bad news for India's wildlife: 252 leopards died in the first nine months of 2012 - one every day.
This is a big jump from the figures between 2000 and 2010, during which about four leopard deaths were reported every week.The finding comes two days after HT reported that 69 tigers and 39 rhinos have died in the first nine months of this year.
Data with the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) shows that leopard deaths in 2012 have been highest since the data was first made available in 1994. More than half the deaths were because of poaching, the NGO claims.
Though leopards are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, their killing continues unabated.
"Without a strategy to tackle illegal trade, leopard numbers may decline as rapidly as tiger numbers," says Divyabhanusinh Chavda, member of National Board for Wildlife and chairman of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), India.
Uttarakhand has emerged as a major source of leopard body parts while Delhi is the epicenter of illegal trade.
About 90% leopards are poached for their skin, which is eventually traded to Myanmar, Laos, China, Vietnam and Cambodia.