Prince of the cats: India has nearly 14,000 leopards, Centre’s report reveals

MP, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have the highest number of leopards in India
A male Indian leopard rests on a tree in Central India. Photo: iStock
A male Indian leopard rests on a tree in Central India. Photo: iStock

India has 13,874 leopards, with the heart of the country — Madhya Pradesh — having the largest number of its third-biggest felid, a landmark report released by the Centre on February 29, 2024 showed.

The pan-India population of the Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) was estimated at 13,874 (Range: 12,616–15,132) individuals. This represented a stable population in comparison to the similar area being sampled in 2018 with 12,852 (12,172-13,535) individuals, an official statement added.

“This estimate represents population of 70 per cent of leopard habitat; the Himalayas and semi-arid parts of country which are not tiger habitat were not sampled,” the statement noted.

Among the country’s physiographic regions, Central India had a stable or slightly growing population of leopards (2018: 8,071, 2022: 8,820). On the other hand, the Shivalik hills and Gangetic plains experienced a decline (2018: 1,253, 2022: 1,109).

There has been a 1.08 per cent annum growth in leopard numbers if area sampled both in 2018 and 2022 across India is considered. The Shivalik hills and Gangetic plains showed a -3.4 per cent decline per annum. Central India and Eastern Ghats showed the largest growth rate at 1.5 per cent.


Madhya Pradesh, located in Central India, houses more leopards than any other Indian state at 3,907 (2018: 3,421). It is followed by Maharashtra (2022: 1,985; 2018: 1,690), Karnataka (2022: 1,879 ; 2018: 1,783) and Tamil Nadu (2022: 1,070; 2018: 868).

Nagarajunasagar Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Panna and Satpura in Madhya Pradesh were the tiger reserves with the highest numbers of leopards.

Cat in danger

The statistics are part of the report released by Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav on February 29 in the national capital.

The minister posted on his X handle:

Released the report on Status of Leopards in India today. Happy to share that the estimated leopard population in 70 per cent of the leopard occupied area in India is now 13,874, up from 12,852 in 2018. Central India recorded the highest population with Madhya Pradesh having 3,907 leopards.

The exercise to estimate the population of leopards in India is in its fifth cycle (2022).

The National Tiger Conservation Authority and Wildlife Institute of India, in collaboration with state forest departments, focused on forested habitats within 18 tiger-range states, covering four major tiger conservation landscapes.

“Non-forested habitats, arid, and high Himalayas above 2000 msl (~ 30 per cent area) were not sampled for leopard. This cycle conducted a foot survey spanning 6,41,449 km to estimate carnivore signs and prey abundance. Camera traps were strategically placed at 32,803 locations, resulting in a total of 4,70,81,881 photographs, resulting in 85,488 photo-captures of leopard,” the statement noted.

The leopard is among the most adaptable felids and is known to survive on small prey. It often occurs outside Protected Areas and near human settlements, where it can live on livestock as well as feral dogs.

The statement highlighted this as well. “While tiger reserves serve as important strongholds, addressing conservation gaps outside protected areas is equally vital. Rising incidents of conflict pose challenges for both leopards and communities. Since leopards’ survival outside protected areas is equally important, collaborative efforts involving government agencies, conservation organisations, and local communities are essential to enhance habitat protection and mitigate human-wildlife conflict,” it observed.

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