Scientists Analyse Leopard Populations and find 75%-95% Decline across India
Bengaluru: Scientists used genetic and occurrence data from leopards sampled across India to study population structure and patterns of demographic decline. The study revealed four distinct sub populations corresponding to the Western Ghats, Deccan Plateau-Semi Arid, Shivalik and Terai region of the north Indian landscape, with high genetic variation. Coalescent simulations with micro satellite loci revealed a possibly human-induced 75-90% population decline between 120-200 years ago across India. Population-specific estimates of genetic decline are in concordance with ecological estimates of local extinction probabilities obtained from occupancy modeling of the historic and current distribution of leopards in India.
Scientists deduce that these genetic clusters were formed due to restricted gene flow along major habitat type differences between these bio-geographic zones. Scientists from the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS India) and the Wildlife Institute of India have used genetic data from leopards sampled across the Indian subcontinent to investigate population structure and patterns of demographic decline. They investigated the demographic history of each identified sub populations and compared genetic decline analyses with countrywide local extinction probabilities.
In an article published in the journal, PeerJ – Life and Environment, authors Supriya Bhatt (Wildlife Institute of India), Suvankar Biswas (Wildlife Institute of India), Dr. Krithi K. Karanth (Centre for Wildlife Studies), Dr. Bivash Pandav (Wildlife Institute of India) and Dr. Samrat Mondol (Wildlife Institute of India) elucidate how they collected faecal samples and identified 56 unique individuals using a panel of 13 microsatellite markers, and merged this data with already available 143 leopard individuals. The study reveals population structure and recent decline in leopards. The results of the study showed that coalescent simulations with micro-satellite loci revealed, across India, a possibly human-induced 75–90% population decline between approximately 120–200 years ago. The article also deduces that population-specific estimates of genetic decline are in concordance with ecological estimates of local extinction probabilities in these sub populations.
Quote 1: “Our results are both interesting and alarming- using two different methodological approaches we have established that even one most adaptable big cats in India has experienced decline in population structure and distribution,” says Dr. Krithi K. Karanth, Chief Conservation Scientist at CWS. This study suggests that leopards demand similar conservation attention like tigers in India. It also emphasises the importance of similar work on wide-ranging and commonly perceived as locally abundant species, as it is possible that they may show population decline, especially in the context of the Anthropocene.
The study titled Genetic analyses reveal population structure and recent decline in leopards (Panthera pardus fusca) across the Indian subcontinent authored by Supriya Bhatt, Suvankar Biswas, Krithi Karanth, Bivash Pandav, and Samrat Mondol appeared in the journal PeerJ – Life and Environment, and can be accessed here. A PDF version of the paper can also be downloaded from the same webpage. Centre for Wildlife Studies The Centre for Wildlife Studies, based in Bengaluru, is an internationally recognized centre-of-excellence in the arenas of wildlife research, in situ conservation, policy and education.
In collaboration with Central and State Governments as well as partnerships with several national and international institutions, CWS practices science-based conservation to promote the protection of wildlife and wildlands. Visit: http://www.cwsindia.org/ | Follow: @cwsindia [Instagram] | @cwsindia [Twitter] | https://www.facebook.com/
Photos courtesy : Dinesh Kumble and Trishala Ashok