Natural Sciences Conservation
The Arabian Leopard is highly endangered
The Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) is a leopard subspecies native to the Arabian Peninsula and is on the Red List of Endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Arabian leopard is one of the most highly endangered large cats in the World. Based on a wild population that is believed to be fewer than 250, Arabian leopards are listed in the IUCN Red Data List as “A2cd ver 3.1” (“Threatened”).
The population is severely fragmented, subpopulations are isolated and not larger than 50 mature individuals and the population is thought to be in continuous decline . The Arabian leopard is one of the smallest leopard subspecies. It was tentatively affirmed as a distinct subspecies by genetic analysis from a single captive leopard from Israel of south Arabian origin, which appeared most closely related to the African leopard.
Wild Arabian leopards are apparently more common than wild Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis) which may number as few as 20. However, as there are only about 60 captive Arabian leopards and probably more than 500 Amur leopards in captivity, the former is in much more imminent danger of extinction.
The Arabian leopard, distribution and subspecies status
An article for the Anglo-Omani Society describes the activities of the Omani government in protecting the Arabian leopard in the mountains of Dhofar. Hadi Al Hikmani is a wildlife specialist with the Office for Conservation of the Environment, Diwan of Royal Court, Oman, and a leading researcher on the Arabian leopard project.
The Arabian leopard is a critically endangered subspecies that inhabits the mountains of the Arabian Peninsula. The population is in decline with the last strongholds in Yemen and the Sultanate of Oman. The principal threats to the leopard are persecution, often in response to livestock killing, and the loss of habitat and key prey species.
Visual camera traps as a method for data collection
The Omani government has taken steps to protect the Arabian leopard in the mountains of Dhofar. A protected area was established in 1997 to safeguard the leopards of Jabal Samhan and the Arabian Leopard Survey was launched the same year to study the leopard throughout Dhofar. The Survey has obtained baseline information on the distribution, population and ecology of the leopard and a National Action Plan for its conservation was drafted in 2014.
The Arabian leopard project team includes more than 20 wildlife rangers who work throughout the Dhofar mountains. Fieldwork aims to obtain robust data on the Arabian leopard population of the Dhofar mountains. This involved multiple methods inlcuding visual camera traps at 30 sites in addition to DNA samples for diet analysis.
A recent study compared the effectiveness of various methods for surveying medium and large wild mammals in southern Oman. Results showed that the efficiency of detection methods varied by species, with one or two methods often outperforming others. For several species, different methods produced different spatial distributions, suggesting a higher detection efficiency of multiple methods used in combination. Results showed that DNA analysis was more efficient for the detection of Leopard Panthera pardus nimr.
These studies provide ecological insights and precious data on leopard populations.
Stein, A.B., Athreya, V., Gerngross, P., Balme, G., Henschel, P., Karanth, U., Miquelle, D., Rostro, S. & Kamler, J.F. and Laguardia, A. 2016. Panthera pardus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T15954A50659089. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T15954A50659089.en.
Mazzolli, M., Haag, T., Lippert, B.G., Eizirik, E., Hammer, M.L.A. and Al Hikmani, K. (2016) Multiple methods increase detection of large and medium-sized mammals: working with volunteers in south-eastern Oman. Oryx, pp. 1–8. doi: 10.1017/S0030605315001003.
You may also want to read:
Al Hickmanic, H., Zaabanoot, N. and Zaabanoot A. (2015). Camera trapping of Arabian leopard in the Nejd region of Dhofar Mountains.
Cat News, 62:32.
Andrew P. Jacobson, Peter Gerngross, Joseph R. Lemeris Jr., Rebecca F. Schoonover, Corey Anco, Christine Breitenmoser-Würsten, Sarah M. Durant, Mohammad S. Farhadinia, Philipp Henschel, Jan F. Kamler, Alice Laguardia, Susana Rostro-García, Andrew B. Stein, Luke Dollar. Leopard (Panthera pardus) status, distribution, and the research efforts across its range. PeerJ, 2016; 4: e1974 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.1974
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