An old Persian leopard has been captured on camera in Iran, but this is not the first time. The cat was first photographed by a camera trap in 2004, according to wildlife conservationists in the area, and has since been spotted by both game wardens and visitors on numerous occasions.
In 2007, the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Panthera fitted the male Leopard with a GPS collar, which revealed that virtually all of the 88,500 hectare Bafq Protected Area is the leopard’s play area. Sadly, the territory is now in jeopardy as a planned road could traverse the heart of the park.
Located in Yazd province, the Bafq Protected Area is home to cheetahs, gazelle, wild sheep and goat, various birds, reptiles and other mammals, and the leopard.
Whereas most cats in the wild rarely live past ten, this dominant male is thought to be up to 14 years old, making him the oldest leopard ever to roam the desolate plains and valleys of this mountainous park – or anywhere in Iran.
Big cats in captivity live considerably longer, according to Wildlife Extra.
Threatened by the same factors that have put global wild cat populations at serious risk, leopards in Iran are very rare, and those that do exist frequently run into fatal confrontations with local farmers.
Several organizations in Iran have stepped up measures to improve relationships between the public and wildlife, but the planned road project poses a new risk to this special habitat.
A new study shows that there are a total of eleven leopards in the park, the paper reports.
“Launched in January 2012, a one year camera trapping program was implemented by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) and Yazd Department of Environment in partnership with CACP and Panthera to understand the population make up of the Asiatic cheetah and the Persian leopard across multiple reserves in central Iran, including Bafq,” the paper reports.
But at least one official at the Bafq Governor’s Office does not believe that the populations warrant continued protection.
“We believe that with no more than two leopards and 6 cheetahs, Bafq Protected Area does not have high environmental importance to continue its protection as a reserve,” the official is quoted as saying.
Panthera pardus is listed as near-threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN.)
Image via Iranian Cheetah Society