Uttarakhand has emerged as a hub of leopard skin trade within eight months of this year, leaving behind Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, according to the records of Delhi-based non-governmental organisation Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).
Two leopard skins were seized from Dehradun on August 26. Before this, seven skins were seized from Kotdwar and one from Dehradun on January 26. On June 6, three skins were seized from Chamoli and on April 29, three more skins were recovered in Pithoragarh.
The hill state has reported seizure of 22 leopard skins and bones this year.
It also lost 68 leopards this year due to skin seizure, poaching, accidents, natural causes and killings by people and the forest department.
WPSI statistics say nearly 35% leopard deaths reported were due to seizure and poaching.
“Lack of strategic planning towards leopard conservation is a big reason behind poaching,” Tito Joseph, project manager of WPSI, said.
While the national census in 2015 has put the total leopard count between 12,000-14,000, Uttarakhand alone accounts for over 2,300 big cats.
“Leopard population in our state is growing because of which human-animal conflict is high and crimes against the animal are on the rise,” Digvijay Singh Khati, chief wildlife warden of Uttarakhand, said.