Roadkill could lead to leopard population getting extinct in north India, study finds

By: |
November 05, 2021 1:50 PM

The study, published in the Global Ecology and Biogeography journal, quantifies the threat that roads posed to the survival of animal populations across the globe.

Indian leopardThe Indian leopard is also found in Bhutan, Nepal, and parts of Pakistan. (Pixabay/IE)

The leopard population in north India faces an 83% increased risk of extinction due to roadkill, a new international study has found. The study, published in the Global Ecology and Biogeography journal, quantifies the threat that roads posed to the survival of animal populations across the globe. The study identified the north Indian leopard population as the most vulnerable to extinction in 50 years if the current roadkill levels persisted. The researchers estimate that at an 83% increased risk, the north Indian leopard population would become extinct in 33 years.

Among the four identified animal populations found to be most vulnerable, the north Indian leopard is followed by the maned wolf and the little spotted cat in Brazil, and the brown hyena in southern Africa. Other highly-vulnerable animal populations are the lion-tailed macaque and the sloth bear in south India.

The researchers used existing roadkill data on six continents for 392 mammal species for calculations based on roadkill rates, population density, age of sexual maturity, and litter size. The study site covered Rajaji National Park and the Haridwar Conservation area in Uttarakhand for the north Indian leopard population.

The researchers said the risk of local extinction could go up 10% if at least 20% of the population were killed by roadkill.

The Indian leopard is also found in Bhutan, Nepal, and parts of Pakistan. It inhabits dry deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, northern coniferous forests, and temperate forests.

In 2015, an estimated 7,910 of the 12,000-14,000 leopards in India lived in and around tiger habitats. By 2020, the population in the forested tiger range landscapes was estimated at 12,172 to 13,535 leopards.

The species features in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List because of population decline following habitat loss, poaching, and persecution due to conflict situations.

The study said the results had implications for worldwide mammalian conservation and road mitigation.

Through the analyses, the researchers have sought to bring attention to south-eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa as regions where roads can lead to loss of mammalian biodiversity. Thus, road mitigation and areas of future road development need to be carefully considered, the researchers said in the study.

Roadkill is recognised as a threat to 10 species of mammals by the IUCN. The researchers, however, noted that these were not among those they found most vulnerable.

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