India leopards at risk of decimation: Study
NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's leopard population is at risk of being decimated as a result of rampant poaching fuelled by a thriving black market for its skins, a study by animal conservationists said on Friday.
The report by a network of wildlife groups known as Traffic said at least four leopards have been killed every week by poachers in India in the last decade, and their plight mirrored that of the tiger, which is now an endangered species.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one of the groups behind Traffic, said it was vital for India's government to come up with an effective strategy to combat the trade in leopard skins.
"The leopard is among the most charismatic large animals in the world, and plays an important ecological role in the forests it inhabits," Mr Ravi Singh, the secretary general of WWF-India, said at the report's launch. "Any increase in external market demand could easily lead to a decimation of leopard numbers in India, but I am hopeful this latest analysis will provide the impetus to catalyse effective conservation action."