Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

In the arid terrain of their habitat, Arabian leopards require large territories in order to find enough food and water to survive (4) (6). The male's territory usually overlaps those of one or more females, and is fiercely defended against other intruding males (4), although spatial overlap between male ranges is common (6). Despite males and females sharing a range, they are solitary animals, only coming together to mate, which is very vocal and lasts for approximately five days (4) (5). After a gestation period of around 100 days, a litter of one to four cubs are born in a sheltered area, such as a small cave or under a rock overhang (4) (5). During the first few weeks the female frequently moves her cubs to different hiding places to reduce their risk of being discovered (4). Although young open their eyes after about nine to ten days and begin to explore their immediate surroundings (5), they will not venture from the security of the den until at least four weeks old (6). Young are weaned by three months but remain with their mother for up to two years whilst they learn the skills necessary to hunt and survive on their own (4) (6). Traditional prey of the Arabian leopard include species such as the Arabian tahr (Hemitragus jayakari), mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella), Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana), Cape hare (Lepus capensis cheesmani) and Rock hyrax (Procavia capensis), but in some areas these species have declined so dramatically due to hunting and overgrazing that the leopards have been forced to occasionally prey upon domestic stock, bringing them into direct conflict with man (4) (5) (6) (8). Hunting usually occurs around dawn and dusk, thereby avoiding the midday heat (4) (9).
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Description

The Arabian leopard is the largest and most powerfully built of all Arabian cats, but is thought to be the smallest of the 15 leopard subspecies (5) (6). Apart from its substantially smaller size, this subspecies can be distinguished from its African and Asian counterparts by its paler overall colour (4). Indeed, the more typical deep golden-yellow colour only exists along the animal's back, whilst the rest of the body fades to beige or greyish-white (4) (5). The body is almost entirely interspersed with widely-spaced black rosettes and spots characteristic of the species, which help to camouflage the cat in the bare, rocky terrain in which it lives (2) (5) (6). The long tail is used for balance when climbing or reclining in trees (6). Sexes look alike, but males are generally larger than females (5).
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Distribution

Range

Formerly common throughout the Arabian Peninsula, only small scattered populations now remain. A few individuals are confined to the Negev Desert in the north of Arabia, and in the south, populations are known from just one location in the Republic of Yemen and one in the Sultanate of Oman (7).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Found in rugged mountains, preferably where permanent water sources occur (6).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
C2a(i)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Mallon, D.P., Breitenmoser, U. & Ahmad Khan, J.

Reviewer/s
Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
A 2006 Arabian Fauna Conservation Workshop estimated there were fewer than 200 leopards remaining on the Arabian peninsula, in three confirmed separate subpopulations (Breitenmoser 2006, Spalton and Al Hikmani 2006). There is a very small population in Israel's Negev desert, estimated at 20 in the late 1970s: Nowell and Jackson 1996). In Yemen, there is a confirmed subpopulation in the Wada'a mountains 120 km north of the capital Sana'a; leopards potentially occur in four other mountainous areas of the country but this is unconfirmed (Al Jumaily et al. 2006). The largest confirmed subpopulation is in the Dhofar mountains of southern Oman. The 4,500 km² Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve was established there in 1997 after camera trap records of leopards were obtained; camera trapping since then has identified 17 individual adult leopards, including one cub (Spalton et al. 2006). Camera trapping has also confirmed the presence of 9-11 leopards in the mountains that run west of the reserve to the Yemen border (Spalton and Al Hikmani 2006). In Saudi Arabia, the potential population size was estimated at 60-425, with a potential range of 4,000-19,635 km² in the western Sarawat and Hijaz mountains (Judas et al. 2006). This represents only about 10% of the leopard's historic range in that country. However, although Al-Johany (2007) collected numerous records (over 65) from informants during 1998-2003, and Judas et al. (2006) also obtained a number of informant records, subsequent camera trapping failed to confirm leopard presence (Judas et al. 2006). Leopard presence in Saudi Arabia is still considered uncertain (Spalton and Al Hikmani 2006). Leopards are probably extinct in Jordan (Qarqaz and Abu Baker 2006), Egypt's Sinai peninsula (Spalton and Al Hikmani 2006), with the possibility of a rare vagrant from the Negev (T. Wacher pers. comm. 2008), and the United Arab Emirates (Edmonds et al. 2006a, Spalton and Al Hikmani 2006).

The Arabian leopard is threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation; hunting of its wild prey, and retaliatory killing in defense of livestock (Al Jumaily et al. 2006, Breitenmoser 2006, Edmonds et al. 2006a, Judas et al. 2006, Spalton and Al Hikmani 2006, Al-Johany 2007). At least ten wild leopards were live-captured in Yemen since the early 1990s and sold to zoos; some have been placed in conservation breeding centers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia (Al Jumaily et al. 2006, Edmonds et al. 2006b, Spalton and Al Hikmani 2006).

Listed as Critically Endangered, as the effective population size is clearly below 250 mature individuals, with a continuing decline, and severely fragmented distribution with isolated subpopulations not larger than 50 mature individuals (Breitenmoser et al. 2006).

History
  • 1996
    Critically Endangered
  • 1996
    Critically Endangered
  • 1994
    Endangered
    (Groombridge 1994)
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Status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1) and listed under Appendix I of CITES, at the species level (3).
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Population

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

The Arabian leopard clings to a desperately precarious existence. With an official estimate of probably no more than 250 mature individuals, and a declining trend, this cat edges ever closer to the jaws of extinction (6). Habitat loss poses a serious threat, largely as the result of overgrazing by livestock (2), which has also contributed to the depletion of the leopard's prey base (7). Hunting, of both the leopard and its prey, has also had a dramatic impact on the cat's survival, contributing to it becoming one of the rarest animals in the world today (4). The leopards in Yemen are under particular pressure from hunting, persecution from local shepherds and capture for trade (7), threats that are thought to be the main contributors to the species' demise (8). Sadly, significant conflict arises from many people considering the leopard to be a threat to their domestic stock (8), with leopards probably often being blamed for kills by wolves and unexplained livestock losses (9).
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Management

Conservation

Fortunately, the situation is much more hopeful in Oman than in Yemen, with the leopards of the Dhofar Mountains benefiting from comprehensive conservation measures (8). The first significant step to conserve the Arabian leopard was taken in 1985 when the region's first captive breeding group was established at the Omani Mammal Breeding Centre in Muscat (8). Since then, captive breeding efforts at a number of institutions have been successful, with several cubs born at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Such captive breeding programmes are essential in maintaining genetic diversity and saving this species from extinction (4). Nevertheless, these successes need to be matched by equal successes in conservation efforts in-situ (2), without which potential reintroductions into the wild would be destined to fail (6). To this end, a surge in conservation effort erupted in 1993 in response to a particularly heavy spate of killing by hunters in the early 1990s. This included the establishment of the Arabian Leopard Trust, which aimed to protect the leopard, its mountain habitat and Arabian wildlife in general (4). In 1997, another significant step was taken when Jabal Samhan, part of the Dhofar Mountains in Oman, was declared a Nature Reserve, increasing the level of protection afforded to the leopard and its habitat (8). In the same year, the Arabian Leopard Survey was launched, followed subsequently by various field surveys, camera-trapping and tracking of leopards fitted with GPS satellite collars, not only revealing vital information on the ecology of this species but helping to keep this flagship species in the pubic eye (8). In Oman the leopard is also legally protected from hunting and capture, with stiff penalties if caught involving imprisonment and a fine (8). Despite all these conservation measures, the Arabian leopard still has dangerously low numbers and is extremely vulnerable to the threat of extinction. The most important identified need of this unique cat is to urgently safeguard it and its prey species in the Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve, possibly the last viable refuge of the species (9). For this to be successful in the long term, conservationists face the challenge of minimising human damage to the area, reducing human-leopard conflict, and most significantly, making the reserve benefit the local people economically, a powerful incentive to the surrounding communities to protect their rare and unique native fauna (8) (9).
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Wikipedia

Arabian leopard

The Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) is a leopard subspecies native to the Arabian Peninsula and classified as Critically Endangered by IUCN since 1996. Fewer than 200 wild individuals were estimated to be alive in 2006. The population comprises fewer than 250 mature individuals and is severely fragmented. Subpopulations are isolated and not larger than 50 mature individuals. The population is thought to decline continuously.[1]

The Arabian leopard is the smallest leopard subspecies.[2] 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.[3]

Characteristics[edit]

The Arabian leopard has pelage hues that vary from pale yellow to deep golden or tawny and are patterned with rosettes.[4] At a weight of about 30 kg (66 lb) for the male and around 20 kg (44 lb) for the female, the Arabian leopard is much smaller than the African Leopard and other Asian subspecies.[5]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The geographic range is poorly understood but generally considered to be limited to the Arabian Peninsula, including Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.[6] Until the late 1960s, the Arabian leopard was widely distributed in the Arabian Peninsula. It once existed in Haqel in the northern part of the Median Mountains, and in Hijaz and the Sarawat Mountains. It also existed in the northern Yemen highlands, in the mountains of Ras al-Khaimah, in the eastern region of the United Arab Emirates, and in the Jabal Samhan and Dhofar mountains in Oman.[7] There was a very small population in Israel's Negev desert, estimated at 20 in the late 1970s.[8]

In Saudi Arabia, leopard habitat used to extend along the rugged arid to semi-arid mountains along the coast of the Red Sea at elevations from 600 to 2,400 m (2,000 to 7,900 ft). Since the beginning of the 19th century, the leopard’s range has decreased by around 90%. Of 19 reports obtained from informants between 1998 and 2003, only four are confirmed including sightings in one location in the Hijaz Mountains and three locations in the Asir Mountains, with the most recent record in 2002 south of Biljurashi. No leopard was recorded during a camera trapping survey conducted from 2002 to 2003. Although the leopard is officially protected in the country, its remaining range is not encompassed by protected areas.[9]

A few individuals survive in the Judean Desert and Negev Highlands while in the Arabian Peninsula leopards are known to live in just one location in Yemen and one in Oman.[6] The largest confirmed subpopulation inhabits the Dhofar Mountains of southern Oman. Camera trapping has identified 17 individual adult leopards since 1997 in the Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve.[10] Camera trapping has confirmed the presence of 9–11 leopards in the mountains that run west of the reserve to the Yemen border.[6]

Leopards occupy remote and rugged high-mountain areas that provide security and vantage points. In the arid terrain of their habitat, Arabian leopards require large territories in order to find enough food and water to survive. The male's territory usually overlaps those of one or more females, and is fiercely defended against other intruding males, although spatial overlap between male ranges is common.[2]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

The Arabian leopard seems to concentrate on small-to-medium-sized prey species such as mountain gazelle, Arabian tahr, rock hyrax, hares, birds and possibly lizards and insects. The carcasses of large prey are usually stored in caves or lairs but nothing was seen to be stored in trees.[11]

Despite males and females sharing a range, they are solitary animals, only coming together to mate, which is very vocal and lasts for approximately five days. After a gestation period of around 100 days, a litter of one to four cubs is born in a sheltered area, such as a small cave or under a rock overhang.[12][13] During the first few weeks the female frequently moves her cubs to different hiding places to reduce the risk of being discovered.[12] Although the young open their eyes after about nine to ten days and begin to explore their immediate surroundings, they will not venture from the security of the den until at least four weeks of age.[2][13] Young are weaned at the age of three months but remain with their mother for up to two years whilst they learn the skills necessary to hunt and survive on their own.[2]

Threats[edit]

Three confirmed separate subpopulations remain on the Arabian Peninsula with fewer than an estimated 200 leopards.[14] The Arabian leopard is threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation; prey depletion caused by unregulated hunting; trapping for the illegal wildlife trade and retaliatory killing in defense of livestock.[6][9][14]

The actual distribution of the leopard in Arabia is not known exactly, mainly due to habitat destruction, killing and lack of ecological studies. Some reports indicate that the leopard population has decreased drastically in Arabia due to killing by shepherds and villagers after leopard raids on their livestock making them an enemy of farmers. In addition, hunting of leopard prey such as hyrax and ibex by local people and habitat fragmentation, especially in the Sarawat Mountains, have made the survival of the leopard uncertain.[15]

In the 1950s, the numbers of leopards were already decreasing drastically due to killing by hunters, and habitat degradation and fragmentation. Together with the killing and poisoning of the leopard, decreased availability of prey might bring about its extinction.[16] Other reasons for killing leopards are for personal satisfaction and pride, traditional medicine and hides. Some leopards are killed accidentally when eating poisoned carcasses intended for wolves and hyenas.[15]

Among products being sold in the tent city of Mina, Saudi Arabia after the Haj of 2010, skins of Arabian leopards poached in Yemen were offered.[17]

Conservation[edit]

The Arabian leopard is listed in CITES Appendix I.[1]

The 4,500 km2 (1,700 sq mi) Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve was established in 1997 after camera trap records of leopards were obtained; camera trapping since then has identified 17 individual adult leopards, including one cub.[10] Al Jazeera spotlighted recent successful tracking efforts at the Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve in a 2012 episode of its program Witness.[18]

At least ten wild leopards were live-captured in Yemen since the early 1990s and sold to zoos; some have been placed in conservation breeding centers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.[19]

A detailed study of leopard distribution and habitat requirement is needed for the management of the species. The ecological information needed include data on feeding behavior, range use and reproduction. This information is of great importance to the survival of the species. There are many sites already surveyed and considered to be suitable for preservation for leopards in the plan adopted by the national commission for wildlife conservation and development. These areas include Jebel Fayfa, Jebel Al-Qahar, Jebel Shada, which has already been gazetted as a protected area, Jebel Nees, Jebel Wergan, Jebel Radwa and Harrat Uwayrid. The formal establishment of some of these areas is now urgent.[1]

A successful conservation strategy must promote the awareness of the importance of leopard conservation, employing the media and perhaps other sources for basic education programs. The support and involvement of people living close to leopard habitats are vital in such efforts. This is true not only because they might affect the conservation of the leopard in one way or another, but also because they depend on their livestock which could be killed occasionally by leopards. Although it is not always practical, compensation for lost livestock from leopard predation should be considered.[20]

Revenue from sources such as hunting rights and ecotourism, services such as roads and school employment in protected areas would encourage local residents to participate in leopard conservation. Furthermore, well-managed protected areas will ensure the continued survival of the species until other factors enhancing its survival become effective. Public awareness, fruitful consideration of the needs of local people and ecological studies may take years to be useful.[21]

In captivity[edit]

The first Arabian leopards were captured in southern Oman and registered in the studbook in 1985. Captive breeding was initiated in 1995 in the Oman Mammal Breeding Centre and is operated at a regional level on the Arabian Peninsula. Since 1999, the regional studbook is coordinated and managed by personnel of the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah.[22] As of 2010, nine participating institutions kept forty-two males, thirty-two females, and three unsexed leopards, of which nineteen were wild caught. This captive population comprised fourteen founders that have an unequal number of descendants.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Mallon, D. P., Breitenmoser, U., Ahmad Khan, J. (2008). "Panthera pardus ssp. nimr". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  2. ^ a b c d Hellyer, P., Aspinall, S. (2005). The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, United Arab Emirates
  3. ^ Uphyrkina, O., Johnson, W. E., Quigley, H., Miquelle, D., Marker, L., Bush, M., O'Brien, S. (2001). "Phylogenetics, genome diversity and origin of modern leopard, Panthera pardus". Molecular Ecology 10 (11): 2617–2633. doi:10.1046/j.0962-1083.2001.01350.x. PMID 11883877. 
  4. ^ Seidensticker, J., Lumpkin, S. (1991) Great Cats. Merehurst, London.
  5. ^ Breitenmoser, U., Mallon, D., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C. (2006) A framework for the conservation of the Arabian leopard. Cat News Special Issue 1: 44–47.
  6. ^ a b c d Spalton, J. A., Al Hikmani, H. M. (2006). The leopard in the Arabian peninsula – distribution and subspecies status. Cat News Special Issue 1: 4–8.
  7. ^ Nader, I. A. (1989). Rare and endangered mammals of Saudi Arabia. In: Abu-Zinada, A. H., Goriup, P. D., Nader, I. A. (Eds.) Wildlife Conservation and Development in Saudi Arabia, no. 3. N.C.W.C.D. Publication, Riyadh, pp. 220–233
  8. ^ Nowell, K., Jackson, P. (1996). Leopard Panthera pardus' in: Wild cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland.
  9. ^ a b Judas, J., Paillat, P., Khoja, A., Boug, A. (2006). Status of the Arabian leopard in Saudi Arabia. Cat News Special Issue 1: 11–19.
  10. ^ a b Spalton A., Hikmani, H. M., Willis, D., Said, A. S. B. (2006). "Critically endangered Arabian leopards Panthera pardus nimr persist in the Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve, Oman". Oryx 40 (3): 287–294. doi:10.1017/S0030605306000743. 
  11. ^ Kingdon, J. (1990) Arabian Mammals. A Natural History. Academic Press Ltd.
  12. ^ a b UAE Interact: Comprehensive news and information on the United Arab Emirates (April, 2006)
  13. ^ a b Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah (April, 2006)
  14. ^ a b Breitenmoser, U. (2006). 7th Conservation Workshop for the Fauna of Arabia 19–22 February: Workshop report. Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, Sharjah, UAE.
  15. ^ a b CAMP (2002) The threatened fauna of Arabia's mountain habitat, Final report. EPAA, UAE, Sharjah.
  16. ^ Sanborn, C. Hoogstral, H. (1953) Some mammals of Yemen and their parasites. Fieldiana Zoology 34 (1953): 229.
  17. ^ Anonymous (2010) Wildlife skins for sale after Haj – Saudi Arabia. Wildlife Times 27 (November 2010): 13–14.
  18. ^ Al Jazeera Saving the Leopard. Al Jazeera Witness.
  19. ^ Al-Jumaily, M., Mallon, D. P., Nasher, A. K., Thowabeh, N. (2006) Status report on Arabian leopard in Yemen. Cat News Special Issue 1: 20–25.
  20. ^ Anderson, D. Grove, A. (1989) Conservation of Africa: People, Politics and Practice. Cambridge University Press, New York.
  21. ^ Bailey, T. N. (1993) The African leopard: Ecology and Behavior of a Solitary Felid. Columbia University Press, New York.
  22. ^ Edmonds, J. A., Budd, K. J., Vercammen, P., and al Midfa, A. (2006). History of the Arabian leopard Captive Breeding Programme. Cat News Special Issue No. 1: 40−43.
  23. ^ Budd, J. and Leus, K. (2011). The Arabian Leopard Panthera pardus nimr conservation breeding programme. Zoology in the Middle East 54 (sup3): 141−150.
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Sinai leopard

The Sinai Leopard is a subspecies of leopard found in the Sinai peninsula and the mountains near Eilat. It has been described as a distinct leopard subspecies (Panthera pardus jarvisi), however genetic analysis indicate that it belongs to the Persian leopard subspecies (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica).[1] It is much smaller than the African Leopard and prefers to hunt birds, mice, and rock hyrax[citation needed]; however, it will eat ibexes and other small livestock if they are available.

The Bedouin have likely hunted it into extinction. It is not known if there are any left living in the wild.

Judean Desert leopard - from Ein Gedi 1985. Ein Gedi national park / national reserve - between 1982 and 1986. Since 1990, registered as an extinct subspecies of leopard.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Miththapala, Sriyanie; Seidensticker, John; O'Brien, Stephen J. (August 1996). "Phylogeographic Subspecies Recognition in Leopards (P. pardus): Molecular Genetic Variation.". Conservation Biology 10 (4): 1115–1132. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1996.10041115.x. Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
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