A rare Persian leopard has been caught on camera in a protected region of Iran according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
The IRNA said the leopard was spotted in southwest Iran in the Sabzkouh Protected Area. It is the first confirmed leopard to live there. There have been reports before and a camera trap was set up to confirm the sighting.
The news is significant as the rare Persian leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana) is endangered and as few as 1,000 may survive. Mosty are in Iran but Russia may be reintroducing them. The cats have a wide range from Turkey east to Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan. They are protected in Iraq and Iran.
According to Brittanica the rare Persian leopard is among the largest of the 9 sub -species of living leopards. Males can weigh in at 200 pounds. One leopard in India, however, topped 300 pounds, dwarfing most other leopards.
Brittanica estimates leopard populations on the high side:
“The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified P. pardus as a vulnerable species, with the number of leopards worldwide estimated at several hundred thousand individuals. The fortunes of each of the nine recognized leopard subspecies, however, vary greatly. Heavily qualified estimates place the population of African leopards (P. pardus pardus) at more than 700,000 animals, whereas the roughly 9,800-leopard-strong population of Indian leopards (P. pardus fusca) is thought to be increasing. By 2020 the IUCN noted that the populations of the Sri Lankan leopard (P. pardus kotiya) and the Persian leopard (P. pardus saxicolor) were endangered species and the Amur leopard (P. pardus orientalis), Arabian leopard (P. pardus nimr), and Javan leopard (P. pardus melas) continued to decrease, with several of these subspecies declining to critical levels.” Links in original.
Other sources suggest the total population worldwide is about 250,000. Africa does have the largest number. India estimates its population at around 10,000. The other seven species have smaller numbers. Because leopards are secretive and highly adaptable they are difficult to count. They can live quite close to human settlements without detection.
Leopard conservation is underway. One novel suggestion is “species royalties. “The idea is that manufacturers of products, such as leopard prints, pay a royalty. That royalty would go to conservation projects.