The Disappearing Indian Leopard: An Endangered SpeciesPublished March 3, 2010
While the big wild cats should not ever be considered as appropriate house pets, in my opinion, the Leopard, a magnificent and mystical big cat, is one of the most strikingly beautiful creatures in the feline species. Their appearance is so compelling to cat lovers that many domestic cat breeders have devotedly worked to bring a "bit of the wild" into our homes in the form of the Bengal cat. The Clouded Bengal permits passionate cat lovers to share their hearts and homes with a domestic cat that so closely resembles the wild leopard. Visit http://www.bengal-cat.net/index.htm to read more about this stunning breed. And while Bengals are becoming more and more popular with feline devotees, the leopard is rapidly becoming an endangered species in India, with their rapidly disappearing habitat. This sad situation breaks my heart. The Leopard thrived beautifully in the areas surrounding Maharashtra and Mumbai for eons but with the development of domestic farming, the scrub jungle environment has been severely threatened during the last decade. When the Government began providing financial incentives to farmers by encouraging them to grow sugar cane, the formerly established working balance between farmers and these gorgeous cats changed drastically. With the destruction of the forests in which the Leopard prospered to make way for sugar cane crops, the leopard was deprived of the ability to forage for the small game that lived in these forests. In order to survive, they had no option but to make their homes in the abundant sugar cane fields. Female leopards were forced to give birth to their young in these sugar cane fields to protect their cubs from other predators. Unfortunately these births concurred with the sugar cane harvesting season resulting in protective mother leopards often attacking farmers approaching their cubs. This caused public outcry. Additionally as the population of the wild prey became scarcer, the leopards had little choice but to adapt to these changes by beginning to hunt goat and cattle, the domestic livestock in the area, and even killing local village dogs. Of course, with their natural habitat disappearing rapidly, they were now living in closer proximity to the local rural farmers who considered them a danger to their livestock, and to their own personal safety. In response to the local farmers' fear, the Forest Department set traps to remove the leopards. While some of the animals were released into the wild, many unfortunate females with a history of attack on humans could not be released and were often confined in small cages no bigger than a small dining room table, in a rescue facility set up by the Forest Department. Only a handful of these Leopards had access to outdoor runs. In 2007, in response to this dilemma Wildlife SOS was invited to partner with the Government to expand and improve the Forest Department's Leopard rescue Center in order to specifically address the special needs of these Leopards. At the same time, Wildlife SOS now provides education about Leopards to the sugar cane farmers and the local people living in the area. If you wish to get involved to help these endangered felines visit the Wildlife SOS website at http://www.wildlifesos.org/rescue to learn more about their organization. You can also donate to help them meet their goal "to help the people to co-exist with leopards with increased tolerance, instead of fearing them". What are your thoughts about preserving our precious wildlife? Leave a comment and share.