Where Have All The Iranian Leopards Gone?

persian-leopards-conservationPersian Leopards are hurtling towards extinction. While creating promotional mugs and Ts can raise awareness about biodiversity in general, The Iranian Cheetah Society takes on the leopard for measurable results.

High vehicle fatality rates and rubbish in the national parks is not all that threatens Iran. That country stands to lose the remaining populations of majestic Persian leopards if conservation efforts are not put in place to mitigate the various factors that threaten them.

In addition to habitat destruction, and indeed possibly because of habitat destruction, leopards that prey on livestock are killed by farmers. Like Jordan’s Gray Wolves, leopards are also hunted. According to the Persian calendar, 2010 is the Year of the Leopard, and thus as good a year as any to install various programs that will help to protect those that continue to roam Iran’s mountains.

Highest mortality rate

The Persian Leopard is an endangered subspecies and one of Iran’s rarest carnivores. Although it is difficult to say exactly how many still exist, numbers range between 550-880.

Conservationists are concerned that they are “lurching towards extinction” as they have in most West Asian countries that they also populate. Among the wild cats present in Iran, they have the highest mortality rate as a result of poaching. Some estimates suggest that several dozens are killed each year.

According to Wildlife Extra, 10-20% of the existing populations are spread out among various protected areas run by the Iranian Department of Wildlife in the Northwest corner of the country, in the Caucasus Ecoregion.

The Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), a non-profit, non-government association established in 2001 to protect the Cheetah, has recently raised the alarm for leopards as well. In order to generate awareness for cheetahs, they established an annual event (August 31) to bring the public and decision makers out of the shadows, and demonstrate the otherwise relatively unknown threats to cheetahs. Now the same group hopes to do the same for leopards.

Leopards vs. locals

When leopards prey on livestock, it causes trouble among the local people who retaliate by culling the animals regardless of whether they are in protected areas.

ICS hopes to conduct research and genetic studies to learn more about the elusive creatures that are notoriously difficult to study, to train game guards to set up tracking devices, and to build capacity among the country’s educated youth. In addition, they expect to negotiate with government officials, and step up their public awareness campaign by creating a video and publishing materials both locally and internationally.

For more information, please visit the Iranian Cheetah Society website.

:: image via Jessicacrabtree and story via Wildlife Extra

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