Short survey of the Anatolian Leopard in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey in 2006-2009

In ancient times leopards were common in southern Europe and Asia Minor. They were revered bij human cultures such as the Etruscans. But after a long hunting for blood sport campaign by the Romans and subsequent persecution throughout the ages that followed, the so-called Anatolian leopard in Asia Minor became withdrawn and obscure, with individuals hanging on in remote mountainous parts of Turkey until at least the first half of the 20th century. Curiosity was roused when one of our members was told by a local young mountaineer about possible sightings of leopards (possibly the Anatolian leopard) in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. This prompted an investigation.

Ample information exists on the life of leopards in prehistory and at the time of ancient cultures. This image from the Chauvet cave in southern France provides evidence that leopards were once among the European megafauna, around 30.000 years ago. By J-M. Chauvet.

Several short pilot surveys were subsequently performed, including a literature study on the Anatolian leopard (download), the use of remote cameras and interviewing of local people active in the mountains. Unfortunately no leopards were detected, but presence data through tracks, sightings and local information was gathered on the existence of wolf, lynx, caracal and jungle cat. A more thorough and long-term systematic survey is envisaged for the near future.

Interviewing local people on carnivore presence. By M. Jonker.

Caracal track. By  Leo Goudzwaard.


Read more on the Anatolian leopard and the history of the leopard in Europe and Asia Minor (English background document and Dutch article on the Anatolian leopard). For those who want to improve their tracking of Persian leopards and other associated large carnivores download the leopard tracking guide.

Possible leopard habitat in the Anatolian Mountains awaiting further investigation with cameratrapping