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Cat count:India has an estimated population of 12,852 leopards.M.A. SRIRAM  

The Western Ghats region is home to 3,387 leopards stealthily roaming around its forests.

Karnataka tops the list with 1,783 leopards, followed by Tamil Nadu with 868, according to the Status of Leopards in India 2018 report.

With 650 leopards, Kerala has the third highest number of big cats in the Western Ghats region. Goa has 86.

“The Western Ghats is home to 3,387 leopards, against India’s population of 12,852,” says the report released recently by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The leopard population was counted during the tiger population assessment undertaken in 2018. The leopard population was estimated to be within the forested habitats in tiger-occupied States, the report said.

The presence of the animal was recorded in the forested areas of Western Ghats, Nilgiris, and sporadically across much of the dry forests of Central Karnataka. Leopard population of the Western Ghats landscape was reported from the four distinct blocks.

The Northern block covered the contiguous forests of Radhanagari and Goa covering Haliyal- Kali Tiger Reserve, Karwar, Honnavar, Madikeri, Kudremukh, Shettihali Wild Life Sanctuary (WLS), Bhadra and Chikmagalur.

The Central population covered southern Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and northern Kerala covering the forests of Virajpet, Nagarhole, Bandipur, Madumalai, Satyamangalam, Nilgiris, Silent Valley, Wayanad, BRT Hills, MM Hills, Cauvery WLS, Bannerghhata National Park.

A second central cluster covering central Kerala and Tamil Nadu comprising the Parambikulam-Anamalai - Eravikulum - Vazachal population.

Camera traps

The southern leopard population block in southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu comprised the forests of Periyar-Kalakad Mundanthurai -Kanyakumari.

A total of 6,758 leopard photographs were obtained from Western Ghats from camera traps. The images helped in the identification of 1,681 adults and sub-adults. While noting that the leopard population had increased in most of the tiger reserves in the Western Ghats landscape, the report cautioned that the growing human population and increasing fragmentation of landscape led to increased human-wildlife interactions in the region.

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