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Arabian Leopard

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Arabian leopard
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: P. pardus
Subspecies: P. p. nimr
Trinomial name
Panthera pardus nimr
Hemprich & Ehrenberg, 1833

The Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) is a leopard subspecies native to the Arabian Peninsula and classified as critically endangered by IUCN since 1996. Less than 200 animals remained in 2006, and the population trend is decreasing.[1] The Arabian leopard is the smallest leopard subspecies.[2]

The Arabian leopard 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]

Contents

[edit] Characteristics

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]

[edit] Distribution and habitat

The geographic range is poorly understood but generally considered as 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, the leopard's habitat used to extend for about 1,700 km (1,100 mi) along the rugged arid to semi-arid mountains along the coast of the Red Sea. During 1998 to 2003, more than 65 records were obtained from informants, but subsequent camera trapping failed to confirm leopard presence.[9]

A few individuals survive in the Judean Desert and Negev Highlands while in the Arabian Peninsula leopards are known from 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]

[edit] Ecology and behaviour

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 carcass of a large prey is 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 their risk of being discovered.[12] Although 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 old.[13][2] 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]

[edit] Threats

Three confirmed separate subpopulations remain on the Arabian Peninsula with fewer than estimated 200 leopards.[14] The Arabian leopard is threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation; hunting of its wild prey, and retaliatory killing in defense of livestock.[9][6][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; habitat fragmentation, especially in the Sarawat Mountains, have made the survival of the leopard uncertain.[15] The reduced leopard population in Arabia requires immediate action to avoid further losses and extinction.

Already in the 1950s, the numbers of leopards were 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, also skins of Arabian leopards poached in Yemen were offered.[17]

[edit] Conservation

The Arabian leopard is listed as a Critically Endangered species, 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.[1] It is listed in the CITES Appendix I.

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]

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.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d Mallon, D.P., Breitenmoser, U., Ahmad Khan, J. (2008). "Panthera pardus nimr". International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Version 2010.4. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/15958/0/full. 
  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 (2001) 10: 2617–2633 download pdf
  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) Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland. book preview
  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
  11. ^ Kingdon, J. (1990) Arabian Mammals. A Natural History. Academic Press Ltd. (279pp)
  12. ^ a b UAE Interact: Comprehensive news and information on the United Arab Emirates (April, 2006) http://www.uaeinteract.com/photofile/phf_arc16.asp
  13. ^ a b Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah (April, 2006) http://www.breedingcentresharjah.com/Home.htm
  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): p. 229
  17. ^ Shakya, M. M. (2010) Wildlife skins for sale after Haj – Saudi Arabia. Wildlife Times No. 27, November 2010. Published by Wildlife Watch Group (WWG), Nepal
  18. ^ Al-Jumaily, M., Mallon, D. P., Nasher, A. K. and Thowabeh, N. (2006) Status report on Arabian leopard in Yemen. Cat News 1: 20–25.
  19. ^ Anderson, D. Grove, A. (1989) Conservation of Africa: People, Politics and Practice. Cambridge University Press, New York.
  20. ^ Bailey, T. N. (1993) The African leopard: Ecology and Behavior of a Solitary Felid. Columbia University Press, New York.

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