Gujarat has seen a substantial rise in the number of leopards in the wild in the last six years, reports said. According to the latest forest department census, between 2016 and 2023, the number of leopards has surged from 1,395 to 2,274 — a spike of 63 per cent.
Junagadh tops the list of districts with the highest population of the feline, with 578 leopards in its jungles. It is followed by Gir-Somnath with 257. The presence of the big cat has almost doubled in districts like Junagadh, Surat and Gir-Somnath in the last six years.
Environmentalists however fear that such a rise might lead to more man-animal conflicts. Junagarh is often in the news for frequent brush with lions. And leopards are usually good scavengers, who especially indulge in leftovers of animals hunted by the lions.
Also, for the first time, one leopard has been sighted in Ahmedabad and 105 in Bharuch, where none existed earlier. A wildlife expert said the rise in their numbers in Bharuch could be attributed to a large number of sugarcane fields in the region, which were safe hideouts for the animals.
However, Amreli, Dahod, Mehsana, Jamnagar and Porbandar districts saw a decline in leopard population in this period.
Forest officials said that leopards were spotted in almost all districts of Saurashtra region barring Botad. The region accounts for 50 per cent of the leopards in the state. In 2016, Saurashtra was home to 700 leopards, which has increased by 60 per cent to 1,117.
The South Gujarat region recorded the highest increase of 145.5 per cent in the latest census. The region recorded 518 leopards in 2023 against 211 in 2016. This was followed by North Gujarat which saw a 67 per cent increase – up from 91 in 2016 to 152 in 2023. The Saurashtra-Kutch region recorded a 59.6 per cent increase in 2023 accounting for 1,117 of the 2,274 leopards.