Leopards of Iran – Under threat
An endangered subspecies, the Persian leopard was once abundant across most mountain and forest habitats in Iran, but it is now one of the rarest species of carnivores in the country. Recent surveys have revealed that around 65% of the wild population of the Persian leopard in western Asia exist in Iran. Moreover, despite of poaching and habitat reduction, the range of the leopard is still known to include large areas of Iran, and it is guessestimated that there are about 550-850 leopards still surving in the country. Presently, there are a number of mountainous areas throughout Iran where the leopards live, but various threats have resulted in formation of small, probably isolated population
Wildlife of Iran
Poaching threatening survival
Despite recent efforts to study the leopards in Iran, the Persian leopard is the least studied subspecies of all wild leopards, which makes development of effective conservation strategies difficult. There are concerns that the animal is lurching towards extinction, as it is in a majority of West Asian countries where the Persian leopard still exists. Of 8 wild cat species still known to survive in Iran, It has the highest annual mortality, mainly due to hunting and poaching (Investigations have proved that several dozens are poachedevery year). Sadly, this magnificent cat has disappeared from a number of its former habitats and has a gloomy future in its remaining refuges.
|It is thought that there may be 5-800 leopards |
surviving in Iran today. Photo credit Iranian
Leopards in the Iranian Caucasus
According to the last status assessment, 10-20% of leopards living in Iran occur in NW Iran, in the Caucasus ecoregion. More than 10 areas have been confirmed as holding leopards; mainly in reserves run by the Iranian Department of Environment. A recent investigation of the diet of Persian leopards conducted by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) in northern Iran revealed that predation on livestock leads to high levels of conflict with local people which in turn is the main cause of mortality for Persian leopards, even within protected areas. Presently, genetic investigation is ongoing on the Persian leopards, and various research and educational efforts aimed at conserving the species in Iran are underway.
Read more about leopards in The Caucasus.
Year of the leopard
Conservation of the Persian leopard is one of the essential goals of the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) which has been planned and implemented since 2005 within a number of pilot leopard hot-spot habitats. The Year of Leopard is aimed at improving the conservation of the Persian leopard within its main habitats through the follwing objectives:
- Conducting research on its ecology within a number of habitats;
- Implementation of genetic studies to assess possible issues within small isolated populations;
- Training game guards on technical skills (e.g. tracking, camera trapping, sampling, census, etc.)
- Capacity building among university students through holding field workshops in the field and organizing them to conduct research projects within different leopard habitats;
- Negotiation with decision-makers and high-ranked governmental bodies in charge of wildlife conservation in the country in order to share research outcomes and to find solutions for problematic areas/animals;
- Public awareness campaigns within local communities;
- Producing a documentary movie about the leopard's life in Iran to be broadcasted via national and international TV;
- Publishing outcomes nationally and internationally in order to increase the scientific community's knowledge on the leopard status and ecology.
An Invaluable Opportunity to Save the Leopards
According to Persian calendar, 2010 is Year of Leopard in Iran which undoubtedly is a unique opportunity to establish comprehensive conservation efforts for this vanishing big cat. Social events can normally attract social attention toward conservation from the general population as well as high-ranked decision-makers. The Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) has had a highly successful conservation drive for the Asiatic cheetah through celebrating Cheetah Day (31 August) since 2007 and now, we believe that the time is ripe for the leopard that must not be allowed to disappear.
More information required.
The ICS has proposed to the Iranian community to celebrate this event to save the leopards and a number of activities and plans have been developed. Public knowledge on the leopards in Iran is poor, resulting in significant poaching of the creature in various parts of the country. Additionally, scientific data is not sufficient to properly plan any conservation measures which will need to be addressed. The governmental agencies involved in wildlife conservation need to learn more about the leopards in order to manage the predator more effectively.
Iranian Cheetah Society
The Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), an Iranian, non-profit NGO established in Aug 2001, works to save the last Iranian cheetahs,. The society was founded by three young enthusiastic students of natural resources. With their five years experience in studying the cheetah before its official establishment, ICS has made remarkable progress in its activities to save the cheetah in Iran. ICS is based in Tehran and has 300 members from all over the country.
Go to the website of the Iranian Cheetah Society