Arabian leopard conservation project in Yemen

The Foundation for the Protection of the Arabian Leopard in Yemen/Foundation for Endangered Wildlife (FPALY/FEW) and the Rewilding Foundation (formerly known as the Anatolian Leopard Foundation) in the Netherlands have successfully secured a grant from the Prince Bernhard Nature Fund for the project ‘Preventing the extinction of the critically endangered Arabian leopard at two key sites in the Republic of Yemen’.

The Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, with fewer than 200 wild individuals surviving. This number may well be as low as 100 according to some experts. With a range that historically spanned the Arabian Peninsula, this unique and endemic sub-species has probably been reduced to only three, highly fragmented sub-populations: 6-8 in Israel, approximately 50 in Oman and an unknown number in Yemen. It is presumed to be extinct in Jordan, Egypt (Sinai) and the United Arab Emirates. The last two leopards recorded in Saudi Arabia were poisoned in the Spring of 2007. Extensive camera trap research has yet to prove the leopard survives in Saudi Arabia.

Arabian leopards. By Andrew Spalton and courtesy of FPALY.

FPALY/FEW has developed a proven strategy for collecting essential data on general habitat condition, prey populations and numerous threats e.g. poaching, retaliatory killing due to livestock depredation, habitat destruction and fragmentation. They have successfully investigated leopard presence in Hawf Protected Area by recruiting motivated Yemenis from local communities, trained them intensively and equipped them with the means to gather, record and report their results efficiently.

This new project will target two sites which have been prioritized as the two most important remaining sites for Arabian leopards in Yemen. Scat analysis has proven their existence in one area and video footage of a leopard captured by a local tribe in the other. Local researchers will be recruited and trained in undertaking wildlife surveys (the use of camera traps), educational activities will be implemented in local schools and copies of the children’s book Vanishing Spots (a beautifully illustrated and compelling story of the Arabian leopard) will be disseminated amongst students and children within the target area. This project will document possible Arabian leopard populations for future conservation action, create local awareness and understanding of this highly endangered big cat and will generate a huge amount of conservation will in Yemeni children. These children will ultimately determine the future and fate of this charismatic mammalian carnivore.

David Stanton is Executive Director and Founder of the Foundation for the Protection of the Arabian Leopard in Yemen. For further information about FPALY/FEW please write to fewyemen@gmail.com