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Distribution pattern of the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) in Iran

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This study is a new attempt to identify the latest distribution pattern of the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor Pocock 1927) in its entire range in Iran. Furthermore, the paper aimed to analyse the climatic factors in the current range of the leopard in the country. The study was performed in 138 sites (56 protected areas, 34 non-protected areas and 48 meteorology stations) throughout the country for a duration of four years starting in 2002 using rapid survey techniques and collection of secondary data. A total of 74 protected and non-protected areas are reported here as the leopard detection sites in the country. Although leopards have a wide distribution in Iran, results indicate that 69% of them are found in the northern part where a large tract of forests is regarded as one of the most important habitats for leopards in the country. In general, the leopards are mostly found in habitats with 0 to 20 days per year of ice cover and 58% of its identified range in the country have 3,100-3,600 sunny hours per annum. Leopards inhabit a wide range of temperature, i.e. from -23.10 to +49.40°C however, they are more often found in areas with temperature of 13 to 18°C. The majority (66%) of leopard distribution areas receive more than 200 mm of rain per year. Findings of this research would help the researchers in conducting further regional studies in the leopard distribution range described in this paper. It is also recommended that occupancy modeling on a regional scale should be conducted where leopards are present.
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Distribution pattern of the Persian leopard
(Panthera pardus saxicolor) in Iran
AREZOO SANEI1* and MOHAMED ZAKARIA2
This study is a new attempt to identify the latest distribution pattern of the Persian
leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor Pocock 1927) in its entire range in Iran. Furthermore, the
paper aimed to analyse the climatic factors in the current range of the leopard in the country.
The study was performed in 138 sites (56 protected areas, 34 non-protected areas and
48 meteorology stations) throughout the country for a duration of four years starting in 2002
using rapid survey techniques and collection of secondary data. A total of 74 protected and
non-protected areas are reported here as the leopard detection sites in the country. Although
leopards have a wide distribution in Iran, results indicate that 69% of them are found in the
northern part where a large tract of forests is regarded as one of the most important habitats
for leopards in the country. In general, the leopards are mostly found in habitats with 0 to 20
days per year of ice cover and 58% of its identified range in the country have 3,100-3,600
sunny hours per annum. Leopards inhabit a wide range of temperature, i.e. from -23.10 to
+49.40 ºC however, they are more often found in areas with temperature of 13 to 18 ºC. The
majority (66%) of leopard distribution areas receive more than 200 mm of rain per year.
Findings of this research would help the researchers in conducting further regional studies in
the leopard distribution range described in this paper. It is also recommended that occupancy
modeling on a regional scale should be conducted where leopards are present.
Key words: Panthera pardus saxicolor, Persian leopard, distribution map, climatic factors,
distribution range, protected areas, non-protected areas, meteorology stations, Iran
ASIA LIFE SCIENCES Supplement 7: 7-18, 2011
The Asian International Journal of Life Sciences
1Asian Leopard Specialist Society, Tehran, Iran. e-mail: arezoo.saneii@leopardspecialists.com
& arezoo.sanei@gmail.com Website: www.leopardspecialists.com
2Department of Forest Management, Faculty of Forestry, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400
UPM Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia. e-mail: mzakaria@putra.upm.edu.my
*Corresponding author: Asian Leopard Specialist Society, Tehran, Iran.
e-mail: arezoo.saneii@leopardspecialists.com & arezoo.sanei@gmail.com
Website: www.leopardspecialists.com
Received 27 December 2010; Accepted 31 August 2011.
© Rushing Water Publishers Ltd. 2011. Printed in the Philippines
Distribution pattern of the Persian leopard
(Panthera pardus saxicolor) in Iran
AREZOO SANEI1* and MOHAMED ZAKARIA2
This study is a new attempt to identify the latest distribution pattern of the Persian
leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor Pocock 1927) in its entire range in Iran. Furthermore, the
paper aimed to analyse the climatic factors in the current range of the leopard in the country.
The study was performed in 138 sites (56 protected areas, 34 non-protected areas and
48 meteorology stations) throughout the country for a duration of four years starting in 2002
using rapid survey techniques and collection of secondary data. A total of 74 protected and
non-protected areas are reported here as the leopard detection sites in the country. Although
leopards have a wide distribution in Iran, results indicate that 69% of them are found in the
northern part where a large tract of forests is regarded as one of the most important habitats
for leopards in the country. In general, the leopards are mostly found in habitats with 0 to 20
days per year of ice cover and 58% of its identified range in the country have 3,100-3,600
sunny hours per annum. Leopards inhabit a wide range of temperature, i.e. from -23.10 to
+49.40 ºC however, they are more often found in areas with temperature of 13 to 18 ºC. The
majority (66%) of leopard distribution areas receive more than 200 mm of rain per year.
Findings of this research would help the researchers in conducting further regional studies in
the leopard distribution range described in this paper. It is also recommended that occupancy
modeling on a regional scale should be conducted where leopards are present.
Key words: Panthera pardus saxicolor, Persian leopard, distribution map, climatic factors,
distribution range, protected areas, non-protected areas, meteorology stations, Iran
ASIA LIFE SCIENCES Supplement 7: 7-18, 2011
The Asian International Journal of Life Sciences
1Asian Leopard Specialist Society, Tehran, Iran. e-mail: arezoo.saneii@leopardspecialists.com
& arezoo.sanei@gmail.com Website: www.leopardspecialists.com
2Department of Forest Management, Faculty of Forestry, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400
UPM Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia. e-mail: mzakaria@putra.upm.edu.my
*Corresponding author: Asian Leopard Specialist Society, Tehran, Iran.
e-mail: arezoo.saneii@leopardspecialists.com & arezoo.sanei@gmail.com
Website: www.leopardspecialists.com
Received 27 December 2010; Accepted 31 August 2011.
© Rushing Water Publishers Ltd. 2011. Printed in the Philippines
Distribution pattern of the Persian leopard
(Panthera pardus saxicolor) in Iran
Sanei & Zakaria 2011
8 Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011
INTRODUCTION
The leopard (Panthera pardus) is known to be the most adaptable Panthera
species which is found in a wide variety of climate types (Beer et al. 2005, Bailey 1993)
ranging across most of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Far East, northwards
to Siberia and southwards to Sri Lanka and Malaysia (Bothma 1998, Alderton 2002).
However, habitat conversion, declining prey populations, commercial exploitation
and active persecution contribute considerably to losses of the individuals (Asadi
1997, unpublished report; Balme & Hunter 2004, Kolowski & Holekamp 2006). Despite
the catholic nature of the leopard (Grassman 1997, Lekagul & McNeely 1977, Mills &
Harvey 2001, Alderton 2002, Hayward et al. 2006) which has enabled it to survive in
a wide range of environmental conditions, the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus
saxicolor Pocock 1927) is classified as an endangered subspecies by IUCN (2009).
Although leopard is considered as a wide ranging species in Iran, there are few
and scattered documentations particularly in terms of leopard distribution range
within the past decades. Joslin (1988) reported that leopards were found widely in
Iran and their occurrence is mainly associated with the two mountain chains of Alborz
and Zagros. Harrison (1968) had plotted the distribution of the species while Etemad
(1985, in Persian) reported several leopard detectionsas well as morphological and
biometric data from leopard individuals detected from various parts of the country.
More recently, studies by Kiabi et al. (2002) revealed that 550-850 individuals of
leopards live in Iran while Khorozyan et al. (2005) estimated that a total number of
less than 1,300 individuals of Persian leopard are left in the Middle East. Sanei (2005,
2007: in Persian) documented the Persian leopard distribution range, its associated
species, habitat types as well as morphological and biometric data from various
provinces of the country.
Knowledge on current distribution of the species is critically essential in the
formulation of a conservation and management plan for the species in the country.
This study is a new attempt to describe the distribution pattern of the Persian leopard
in its entire range in Iran. An analysis of climatic factors in the regions with known
leopard populations may help researchers identify other areas where leopards may
persist. Therefore, a further objective of this study is to come up with an understanding
of the role of climatic factors in determining the present leopard distribution range in
the country.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Study area. Iran is a high plateau with 1,623,779 km² area located between 44º 02´ to
63º 20´ E in southwest Asia. There are significant distinctions in climatic factors and
geographic features in different parts of Iran and the altitudes in most parts of the
country are more than 1,200 meters above sea level. The average annual rainfall in the
southwestern forests of the Caspian Sea is more than 2,300 mm. However, drought
condition is common, particularly in the sandy hills of the Lut plateau that usually
occurs for several years (Firouz 2000).
The study was implemented in 138 sites including 56 protected areas, 34 non-
protected areas and 48 meteorology stations (Figure 1; see also Appendix 1) around
Persian leopard distribution range
Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011 9
the country. To assess the role of climatic factors in determining the leopard
distribution, a total of 48 meteorology stations were selected. The selected stations
are the ones nearest to the sites identified as leopard detection areas (Appendix 1).
Figure 1. Location of Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor Pocock 1927)
distribution study sites in Iran.
Distribution studies. The study was conducted over a time span of four years starting
in 2002 and covering a total of 90 sites. To collect the data on current leopard range
in country, staff from the Department of Environment (DoE) of each state filled up
questionnaires dealing with new reports of direct observations of leopards, attacks
on humans or livestock and leopard’s secondary signs such as tracks or feces. Daily
and annual reports from protected areas in each state detailing reports of conflicts as
well as camera-trapping results were also studied. Subsequently, interviews were
conducted with the local people, shepherds and guards of DoE (in protected areas)
on their knowledge of leopards and other wild animals of the area Site visits and
detection/non-detection studies were done based on direct observations and
secondary signs (e.g. tracks, scats and scratches on the trees) of leopards in a cluster
of sites which had been obtained from reports, questionnaires and interviews. Field
surveys for the whole study period were done by first author and a network of local
people around the country who are skilled in techniques to achieve the objectives of
Sanei & Zakaria 2011
10 Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011
the study was established. It should be noted here that distribution map provided in
this study is the outcome of both field surveys and secondary data collection.
Consequently, a questionnaire checklist of abiotic factors such as types of detection
(direct, indirect), locations, dates and other related observations was filled up for
each study site. For this study, Iran is divided into four main regions i.e. north, east,
west and south based on 32º 58´ N - 54º 37´ E to record the findings. These divisions
were in accordance with the objectives of the study. ArcGis version 9.1 was used for
mapping.
Climate data. Data were obtained from 48 meteorology stations (either synoptic or
climatology) during a five-year period (1999-2003). Meteorology stations that are
close to the study sites with confirmed leopard presence (Figure 1)were selected.
Consequently, the average mean monthly data on different meteorological factors
(i.e. temperature, rainfall per year, sunny hours per year and the number of ground ice
covered-days per year) in each station were obtained from annual meteorological
record books of Iran (1999 to 2003).
RESULTS
Distribution of leopard. Distribution map of the leopards has been verified in 74 out
of 90 study sites (82.22%; see also Table 1, Figures 1 & 2). However, 69% of recorded
leopard signs were in the northern part whereas only 31% of them were in the south.
A total of 55% of leopards has been detected in protected areas while 45% of them
were found in non-protected habitats (Table 1). The presence of leopards outside of
protected areas and not inside them is particularly remarkable in Angooran Wildlife
Refuge and Protected Area located in Zanjan Province. Since leopards have been
reported frequently from non-protected areas of the province (e.g. highlands of
Parangin and non-protected habitats of Tarom Township) while there had not been
any sign of leopards in Angooran (WR/PA) for almost three decades (Moradi 1999).
Although, there is a lack of detailed information concerning leopard distribution and
population trends within the region over the last several decades, anecdotal information
obtained from local people suggest that leopard distribution in the west (Kurdistan
Province) has declined severely. Several livestock-leopard and human-leopard
conflicts have been reported from various places such as Rakhshan, Bazman and
Saravan in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Ariz in Yazd Province, Ghazvin Township
in Ghazvin Province and Daregaz in Razavi Khorasan Province. Sanei (2007) revealed
that the leopard caused the second highest level of conflicts next to wolf (Canis
lupus) in 2002 and the third highest level of conflicts in 2003, after the wolf and brown
bear (Ursus arctos). Some other conflicts included a leopard attack on a local shepherd
in 2001, an attack on a dog in 2002, as well as on a goat and sheep in 2002-2003. These
reports came from places around Khar and Touran National Park in Semnan Province.
Persian leopard distribution range
Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011 11
Table 1. Locations of leopard detections in Iran.
Sanei & Zakaria 2011
12 Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011
Table 1. Cont.
Southeast Southwest
Status Status
Hormod
Rochun
Khabr
Saravan
Iranshahr
Neyriz
Bam
Zarand
Haji Abad
P = Protected area; N-P = Non-Protected area; X = Leop ard detection.
*Denotes protection status during the resea rch period; status was changed thereafter.
Figure 2: Distribution of leopard in Iran [Note: This map is an extension of the map
reported by Sanei (2007)].
Persian leopard distribution range
Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011 13
Climate. Results indicated that leopards survive in a wide range of temperature
ranging from -23.10 to +49.40 ºC. However, most of their distribution in the country
was found at areas with mean annual temperature of 13 to 18 ºC of which 53% of these
are located at the northwest. In addition, 62.5% of the areas with high temperature
averages (23-28 ºC) are found in the southeastern region of the country.
A total of 66% of the leopard locations were found in areas with more than
200 mm of rain per year. However, only 4% of its distribution has average rain of more
than 1,200 mm per year. Almost 42% of leopard habitats are in the northwest with
200-400 mm of rain per year. In addition, less than 11% of their habitats in the
northwestern region have less than 200 mm rain per year. Almost 70% of their
distribution in the southeast are also throughout areas with less than 200 mm rain per
year.
Furthermore, results suggested that leopards in Iran are mostly distributed
throughout areas with ice cover from 0 to 20 days per year However, 35.7% of the
leopard distribution in northwestern Iran has 80-100 icy days per year. Even though
58% of leopard distribution was throughout the areas with 3,100-3,600 sunny hours
per year, almost 77% of its distribution in northwestern Iran has less than 3,100
sunny hours per year. More than 80% of its distribution in the northeast, southeast
and southwest is in areas with 3,100 to 3,600 sunny hours per year. As shown in Table
2, habitats which are distributed in the southern part of the country received more
sunny hours per year. In contrast, those areas which are in the western part of the
country had more days where the ground was covered with ice.
Table 2. Analysis of climatic factors1 in areas with leopard detection in Iran.
Parameter
Direction Average Rain Ground ice- Sunny
temperature (mm covered days hours
(ºC per year) per year) (per year) (per year)
Mean Northeast 17.9 233 42.83 2879.29
Northwest 14.4 522 60.02 2656.28
Southeast 22.1 118 22.91 3458.06
Southwest 17.2 421.50 55.12 3456.92
Minimum 3.0 24.00 0.00 1662.80
Maximum 27.7 1364.60 142.00 5171.90
Most observed 13.0-18.0 < 200 0-20 3100-3600
in leopard range
1Source: Annual Meteorological Records of Iran from 1999 to 2003.
Sanei & Zakaria 2011
14 Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011
DISCUSSION
The study indicated that leopards have a wide distribution in Iran. However,
this is mostly associated with the two mountain chains consisting of Alborz running
northwest to northeast and Zagros from northwest to the south. This fact is also
reported almost two decades ago by Joslin (1988) when human disturbances and
habitat destruction were considerably less than the present time. Results also revealed
that most of the leopard areas are found throughout the northwest region which
crosses these mountain chains. Previous study by Kiabi et al. (2002) also indicated
that leopards are more abundant in the northern part of the country compared to the
southern part. There are also a few scattered mountains in the middle, east and south
where leopards were found (Figure 3). It should be added that the Hyrcanian forests
located in the north and along the Alborz chain are considered as one of the most
important habitats for leopards in the country. Various species of potential leopard
preys such as wild pig (Sus scrofa), wild goat (Capra aegagrus), red deer (Cervus
elaphus) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) are found in these forests. Sanei and
Zakaria (2008) indicated that 88% of leopard distribution sites (in the same study
sites as in the current study) in habitats with mountainous forests are located in this
area. Most of the desert areas are located in the east where the two main deserts,
namely: Lut and Kavir are situated. Except for the scattered mountains located in
these places, most of the desert areas are unsuitable for this species due to low prey
base and absence of water.
The results showed that 34% of leopard distribution receives less than 200 mm
rain per year. Generally, Iran being considered as a dry country hence, the distribution
records showed that leopards did not prefer areas with little annual rainfall. However,
temperature is highly variable even on a regional scale and it may have influenced
distribution of the leopards directly or through prey availability which is affected by
vegetation cover. The implication of ice-covered terrain is that such terrain will result
in a leopard being denied adequate supply of prey for survival. Thus, leopards will
follow the seasonal migrations of prey (mostly wild sheep and wild goat) away from
ice-covered terrain. It is therefore not unusual to find leopards migrate from high
altitudes to the lower terrain especially in the months of January, February and
March.
In a number of sites (e.g. Lashgardar in the State of Hamedan), there has been
no sign of leopards for many years. However, it is believed that non-detection of
cryptic and low-density species such as leopards in some sites (particularly those
with sufficient food sources and suitable habitats) does not imply that the species
was truly absent there (MacKenzie 2005).
The present work recommends that further studies should be conducted on
leopard occupancy modeling based on detection/non-detection surveys on a regional
scale and for a multiple year-time frame. Identification of leopard main corridors in its
current distribution particularly between the main national parks (with leopard
detection) and their surrounding leopard habitats is critical to prevent isolation of
subpopulations. The Department of Environment of Iran conducts annual wildlife
counts in various habitats which provide plenty of useful information regarding
Persian leopard distribution range
Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011 15
Figure 3. Locations of the two main deserts of Kavir and Lut as well as Alborz and
Zagros mountainous chains and regions with altitudes of more than 1,200 m above
sea level (Iran).
wildlife status. Therefore, it is suggested to re-organize these surveys in a systematic
manner to obtain reliable population trends of prey species.
CONCLUSION
The findings presented here exemplify an understandingt of the latest
distribution pattern of the Persian leopard in Iran. Leopards were detected in 74 out
of a total of 90 study sites. However, 69% of the leopard locations were found in the
northern part of the country. Almost 45% of these sites were found in non-protected
areas. Results show that the species can survive in a wide range of climate types.
However, they were mostly found in areas with annual average temperature of 13 to
18 ºC, with more than 200 mm of rain per annum; grounds covered with ice for 0-20
days per year and 3,100-3,600 sunny hours per annum.
Sanei & Zakaria 2011
16 Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was conducted in a large number of study sites throughout Iran. Without
the generous help of the local people, this study would not be possible. The authors also
thank the guards and Staff of the Department of Environment, Iran throughout the study
sites, especially Ajami, Torbati, Kheirkhah, Dehghan, Eliasy, Alamshahi, Mahnayee, Zamanlu,
Bayati, Valian, Gholami, Shakiba, Sehhati Sabet, Ghaffari, Esmat Kadkhoda, Baluch , Esfandiari,
Dianati Nasab, Ameri Far, Shahnazari and Mahmoudi for providing information on the area
and the species. The authors truly appreciate the consultation time afforded by the late Dr. H.
Asadi, Dr. H. Tajbakhsh, Mr. H. Ziaie and Dr. B.H. Kiabi. Finally, it is with great indebtedness
that the authors acknowledge the kindness of Gh. Sanei and Sh. Hermidas, Behshahr Kar Co.
for generously funding this study.
Appendix 1. Locations and types1 of meteorology stations in Iran.
1Cl = Climatology station, an observation station which measures one or several climatic elements;
Sy = Synoptic station, one where observations are made based on the processes of the general
atmospheric circulation taken during synoptic hours of 00:00, 06:00, 12:00 and 18:00, Universal
Time.(World Meteorological Organization 1989).
Persian leopard distribution range
Asia Life Sciences Suppl. 7, 2011 17
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... Different studies have been carried out on the ecological and biological aspects of this species in Iran (Kiabi et al., 2002;Ghoddousi et al., 2008;Omidi, 2008;Farhadinia et al., 2009;Sanei and Zakaria, 2011;Erfanian et al., 2013;Farhadinia et al., 2015;Sadeghinezhad et al., 2017), studies, however, on its conservation and management in Iran is not comprehensive enough (Farashi and Shariati, 2018). Therefore, prediction and mapping of leopards' habitat characteristics and suitability can be important because it can shed light on for persistence and monitoring programs of carnivore populations (Balme et al., 2010), successful conservation and sustainable management (Engler et al., 2004;Guisan and Thuiller, 2005;Rooper et al., 2016). ...
... Using expert knowledge, extensive studies of Persian leopards (Kiabi et al., 2002;Ghoddousi et al., 2008;Omidi, 2008;Gavashelishvili and Lukarevskiy, 2008;Khorozyan, 2008;Farhadinia et al., 2009;Sanei and Zakaria, 2011;Erfanian et al., 2013;Farhadinia et al., 2015;Abdollahi, 2015;Sadeghinezhad et al., 2017) and based on data availability as well as the most important significance to leopard biology (Austin, 2002), 6 predictive variables including topographical factors (elevation, slope), ecological data (land cover, distance from water resources), and human infrastructures (distance from roads, distance from villages) were selected for distribution modeling of Persian leopards. ...
Article
Remote Sensing (RS) offers efficient tools for drought monitoring, especially in countries with a lack of reliable and consistent in-situ multi-temporal datasets. In this study, a novel RS-based Drought Index (RSDI) named Temperature-Vegetation-soil Moisture-Precipitation Drought Index (TVMPDI) was proposed. To the best of our knowledge, TVMPDI is the first RSDI using four different drought indicators in its formulation. TVMPDI was then validated and compared with six conventional RSDIs including VCI, TCI, VHI, TVDI, MPDI and TVMDI. To this end, precipitation and soil temperature in-situ data have been used. Different time scales of meteorological Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) index have also been used for the validation of the RSDIs. TVMPDI was highly correlated with the monthly precipitation and soil temperature in-situ data at 0.76 and 0.81 values respectively. The correlation coefficients between the RSDIs and 3-month SPI ranged from 0.07 to 0.28, identifying the TVMPDI as the most suitable index for subsequent analyses. Since the proposed TVMPDI could considerably outperform the other selected RSDIs, all spatiotemporal drought monitoring analyses in Iran were conducted by TVMPDI over the past 21 years. In this study, different products of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS), Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), and Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) datasets containing 15206 images were used on the Google Earth Engine (GEE) cloud computing platform. According to the results, Iran experienced the most severe drought in 2000 with a 0.715 TVMPDI value lasting for almost two years. Conversely, the TVMPDI showed a minimum value equal to 0.6781 in 2019 as the lowest annual drought level. The drought severity and trend in the 31 provinces of Iran have also been mapped. Consequently, various levels of decrease over the 21 years were found for different provinces, while Isfahan and Gilan were the only provinces showing an ascending drought trend (with a 0.004% and 0.002% trendline slope respectively). Khuzestan also faced a worrying drought prevalence that occurred in several years. In summary, this study provides updated information about drought trends in Iran using an advanced and efficient RSDI implemented in the cloud computing GEE platform. These results are beneficial for decision-makers and officials responsible for environmental sustainability, agriculture and the effects of climate change.
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Even though wildlife trafficking is considered as a serious wildlife threat worldwide, no concrete studies have been done so far on the severity of the illegal trade of the Iranian large carnivores. However, for the purpose of law enforcement aimed at prohibiting illegal trade of the specimens, readily recognizable part or derivate thereof, determination of conservation values of the target species is required. As such, an article in the first phase of the Persian Leopard National Conservation and Management Action Plan is dedicated to the relative valuation practices. Relatively, this study is to estimate Willingness to Pay (WTP) for leopard conservation in Iran and assessing the relative parameters according to a specialist conservation target group consisted of experts and staff of the Department of Environment across the leopard range in Iran. Subsequently, a study was conducted from May 2016 to February 2017 using contingent valuation method by applying dichotomous choice and two-dimensional questionnaires. In this regard, a total of 339 questionnaires were distributed among the target group across all provinces of Iran. The results demonstrated that WTP parameter was positive in 73% of the respondents. Yet, following by 1% increase in BID (maximum accepted proposed value), the probability of payment for leopard conservation is reduced up to 0.285%. According to the Logit model and maximum likelihood method and considering the sampling population (i.e., staff of the Department of Environment), the average WTP for annual leopard conservation is 136,263.5 IRR/per person equivalent to the annual total value of 887,893,454.9 IRR for the entire sampling population. The most important effective variables in this study include income and willingness to be a volunteer in non-governmental organizations. Conducting this research, the authors believe that conservation value of the Persian leopard is best evaluated only if a wide range of parameters and various sampling groups are involved in the assessment processes. Yet, the findings in this study suggest that the current penalty for illegal hunting of the leopards in Iran is less than the assessed value of WTP for leopard conservation as much as 87,893,454 IRR. Thus, results of this research could be used for the purpose of establishing appropriate penalties for illegal hunting and poisoning of the specimens as well as relative law enforcements concerning the cases of illegal trade.
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To study the Persian leopard potential habitats, to assess conservation needs and priorities, and also to conduct relative conservation and management programs, considering extensive variability of natural and socioeconomic characteristics across the leopard range in Iran is essential. Iran is a vast country with wide range of the Persian leopard across almost all provinces. Failing to closely concentrate on the notable variability of aforementioned characteristics in each part of the leopard range across the country may negatively affect the species distribution modelling practices as well as many other research, conservation, and management programs. Accordingly, this chapter is dedicated to a novel classification addressing the leopard putative range in Iran for further relative programs. Subsequently, a total of nine natural and human variables including climate, topography, dry condition, vegetation, and elevation, also protected areas, human population, land use, and human poverty index were used to classify the area into the groups with the most similarities. This is conducted by the means of extracting inherent clusters in the dataset of aforementioned variables in all provinces without prior tagging of the cases. Afterwards, topography and climatology in each region are briefly discussed. Conducting the large scale research, conservation, and management programs on a regional basis as introduced in this chapter is recommended not only for the leopard, but also for other wide ranging species in Iran when the program is affected by the variability of natural and socioeconomic characteristics.
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To ensure persistence of a viable population of the Persian leopard in its wide range across Iran wherein also supports trans-boundary movements of the leopards to adjacent areas, the Iranian Department of Environment together with the Asian Leopard Specialist Society embarked on preparation of a species specific conservation and management action plan. Therefore, relative need assessments, stakeholder analysis, and required studies were conducted since 2012. To address the actual status of the Persian leopard in Iran an appropriate participatory planning model has been developed and subsequently, planning activities were conducted during several workshops and sessions by involvement of a wide range of participants from all over the country. A total of 45 internal and external main categories of stakeholders were recognized which also include various governmental and non-governmental organizations. Relatively, questionnaire surveys have been sent out to 60 universities and 220 NGOs with relative field of activities to identify the potential capabilities for implementation of the operations. These five annual action plans cover main topics of awareness raising, training and empowerment; habitat, media, veterinary and disease, rehabilitation centers, trans-boundary habitats and international co-operation, genetic conservation, compensation and insurance program, Persian leopard national network; research, evaluation and monitoring, protection units and wildlife wardens together with relative laws and regulations. This chapter briefly introduces this national document which was officially endorsed in early 2016 for implementation.
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Species potential habitats predicted via various techniques, e.g. MaxEnt modelling in case of the current research, provide helpful information in terms of conservation and management programs, prioritization of limited resources and relative decision makings. Previous chapter was concerned with the modelling of the distribution of the Persian leopard potential habitats across the entire country in a regional context. Aside from the evaluation techniques to assess the modelling procedures which were done in the last chapter, validating the modelling outcomes according to the field data is essential. Thus, this chapter is dedicated to the ground validation of the predictive maps in selected study areas to ensure the accuracy for further conservation and management activities. For this purpose, three provinces in northeast (region 1), northwest (region 4) and south (region 3) of Iran with different environmental characteristics are selected to conduct camera trapping, field visits and indirect sign surveys, obtaining expert and local people knowledge via questionnaire surveys, group discussions and interviews. Three threshold methods including equal training sensitivity and specificity (A), maximum training sensitivity plus specificity (B) and minimum training presence (C) were selected for the purpose of binary classification of the predictive maps developed earlier using the MaxEnt software. The results indicated more accuracy of the sensitivity and specificity based threshold rules rather than the minimum training presence. Yet, intersection of the validated binary maps leads to the final conclusion of the habitat suitability rate of 0.3 on the predictive maps as a value to safely identify the actual potential habitats where importance for leopard conservation planning is confirmed.
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This chapter is dedicated to assessing the Persian leopard potential distribution in Iran on a regional basis that aims to address four objectives and a null hypothesis. Objectives are concerning (1) estimation of the leopard potential distribution, (2) possibility of a major fragmentation in the Persian leopard range in Iran as first mentioned by Sanei et al. (2016), (3) prediction of landscape corridors which can improve the distribution pattern connectivity and (4) the main environmental variables that contribute to assessing the predictive maps. The null hypothesis addresses the variability of permutation importance of the environmental factors in accordance with the regional variability of environmental characteristics. Due to the variability of the environmental characteristics across the country and the leopard putative range which includes almost 30 provinces out of 31, the area has been innovatively divided into five significantly dissimilar regions as discussed in the previous chapter. Subsequently, MaxEnt modelling is conducted in a regional context using a total of 17 variables including 12 natural and 5 human factors together with more than 550 well distributed leopard occurrence data in all regions. Environmental variables have been tested for possible correlation prior to the modelling procedures. Area under the curve (AUC) was used to test the model fit to the data set. Jackknife test was performed to assess the contribution of environmental variables to the MaxEnt models. Fifteen replications with test percentage of 20% were used for validation. Additional evaluation of the predictive models was conducted by assessing the potential habitat distribution maps via the expert/local knowledge of 150 individuals from all five regions. Findings support that the Persian leopard range in Iran is in the process of a major fragmentation to the northern and the southern parts. Accordingly, two landscape corridors providing vital linkages to connect leopard potential habitats in a metapopulation scale are identified. Developed predictive maps in this chapter are a basis for the researches presented in Chaps. 5, 6 and 7. Authors believe that MaxEnt modeling on a regional basis has considerably improved the accuracy of the predictive maps that eventually formed the countrywide potential distribution of the Persian leopard potential habitats in Iran.
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Even though the Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor is an endangered subspecies with the main population inhabiting in Iran (Khorozyan and Abramov, Zool Middle East 41:11–24, 2007; Kiabi et al., Zool Middle East 26(1):41–47, 2002), earlier studies (Sanei et al., Assessment of the Persian leopard mortality rate in Iran. In: Proceedings from UMT 11th International Annual Symposium on Sustainability Science and Management (pp. 1458–1462, 2012). Terengganu, Malaysia: Universiti Malaysia Terengganu) demonstrated that the majority of leopard mortalities are recorded to be as a result of intentional hunting, revenge killing, and poisoning of the specimens. To mitigate livestock–carnivore conflicts and reduce the subsequent revenge killings, an innovative model including a medium and a long-term insurance schemes together with awareness raising, trust building, and participatory conservation strategies is designed. Accordingly, the medium term insurance scheme addresses three main subjects of (1) improving conservation practices in the areas of leopard mortality hot spots, (2) medical payments and wergild for possible human injuries/maim/death because of human–leopard conflicts and (3) recompensing livestock depredation. Also, since the wolf Canis lupus distribution is comparable with the leopard range in the country, because of conservation concerns, damages caused by wolf depredation are also planned to be recompensed partially in the first type (i.e. medium term) insurance scheme and fully recompensed in the long term (i.e. second type) insurance program. Introducing sessions about the relative regulations and instructions were conducted for provincial wildlife wardens and DoE staff who are well familiar with wildlife sign surveys and have a quick access to the habitats in each region. Subsequently, they took the responsibility for identification of wildlife species in livestock–carnivore conflicts. Improvements in husbandry practices, linking the payments to the acceptable husbandry enhancements and participation in reducing risk of damages by local people are some of the instructions considered in the model to improve the efficacy and outcomes. So far, Department of Environment of Iran together with a private insurance company has partially launched the short term insurance scheme since 2016 and launching other sections of this model is in progress.
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Similar to the other big cats of Iran (i.e., the Asiatic lion Panthera leo persica and the Caspian tiger Panthera tigris virgata that are extinct in the region), the Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor has a unique importance in the Iranian art, history, and literature. Symbolization of these species over centuries to emphasize on strength, intelligence, and bravery of the kings and national heroes indicates the significance of the big cats including the leopard, for the Iranian society. The Persian leopard has been also the center of attention for several local and nationwide researches in Iran since 2002. Seeing this introductory chapter of the book mainly consisted of an overview to the prior knowledge about the subspecies, the cultural importance, results of an assessment to determine the leopard conservation requirements in various regions of Iran as well as problem trees addressing habitat-related issues (e.g., habitat destruction and degradation) and high leopard mortality rate.
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Leopard (Panthera pardus) is one of the most widely distributed of all big cats, with Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor), ranked as an endangered taxon, as an invaluable subspecies (IUCN redlist). The underlying causes of leopard population perish are the degradation of their natural habitats, a significant reduction in the population of prey, and hunting. The purpose of this study was to determine the composition of the Persian Leopard diet in the Tandoreh National Park (TNP) of Iran. We collected 51 scats between June and December 2012 in the study area (TNP). Six wild species, two domestic mammals and one unidentified bird were identified. Pika (Ochotona rufescens) were determined as the most prevalent (25.8%) prey. Further, Urial (Ovis orientalis arkali) was also an important prey for its high frequency of occurrence in the scat analysis (22.6%). Moreover, Sheep (Ovis aries) (3.2%), domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) (3.2%), and birds (1.6%) were least frequently observed in the collected materials.
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We investigated the causes and rates of mortality in a protected Leopard population in the Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa. Data from 16 radio-tagged Leopards and their cubs were used to determine the causes of mortality and annual mortality rates for various age and sex classes in the population. Intra-specific strife accounted for the greatest number of deaths followed by human-related mortality. Males died mainly as a result of human activity whereas females died from natural causes. The mortality rate for males was significantly higher than for females, and the annual mortality rate for the population was higher than any previously recorded in Leopards. Rapid turnover of adult males due to human persecution may have reduced recruitment into the population because social instability prevented females from raising cubs. If the present rates of mortality and recruitment are maintained, Phinda may represent a population sink for Leopards with poor conservation and tourism prospects.
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The Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) is endangered throughout its distribution area in the Middle East. In this article, we briefly describe its global range and then emphasize the status, distri-bution, and threats in Armenia. The principal factors jeopardizing the long-term survival of the Persian leopard in Armenia are disturbance, poaching, and wildfire. Currently, the work is underway to identify and describe the coarse-scale range, fine-scale range, and the Priority Leopard Conservation Areas (PLECAs) in the country. Because the leopard distribution is spatially exclusive of inhabited human settlements, the fine-scale range is defined as the coarse-scale one without villages and towns. The statistical information on both ranges is pre-sented. Its comparative analysis has shown that the fine-scale range contains, with statistical significance, a smaller area of the mountain meadows and much shorter lengths of the main asphalted roads than its coarse-scale counterpart. The PLECAs are areas of permanent presence of the predator, which therefore must be granted the highest priority for conservation. The first candidates for the status of PLECAs in Armenia are identified. Resumen El leopardo perso (Panthera pardus saxicolor) está en vías de extinción en toda de su distribución en el Oriente Medio. En éste artículo, describimos brevemente la distribución mundial y enfatizamos el estado, la distribución, y las amenazas en Armenia. Los factores principales que hacen peligrar a la supervivencia del leopardo perso en Armenia son los disturbios, el cazar, y el incendio fuera de con-trol. Ahora el trabajo está en progreso a identificar y describir la habitación de escala aproximada y la de escala precisa, y las Áreas Principales de la Conservación del Leopardo (PLECAs) en el país. La habitación de escala precisa se defina como la aproximada sin las pueblas y las aldeas, porque la distribución del leopardo no incluye espacialmente los asentamientos humanos. Se presenta la infor-mación estadística en ambas distribuciones. El análisis ha mostrado que la habitación de escala precisa contiene, con un significado estadístico, un parte más pequeño de los prados montañeses y unos tramos mucho más cortos de las calles principales que la habitación de escala aproximada. Las PLECAs son áreas de presencia permanente del depredador, y por eso se deben darlas la prioridad más alta por la conservación. Se identifican los primeros candidatos por el status de las PLECAs en Armenia.
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The range of the Leopard is still known to include large areas of Iran. Data have been gathered mainly at nine sites since 1976. The results show that there are about 550–850 specimens in Iran, some 55% of which live in protected areas. Kurzfassung. Die Verbreitung des Leoparden schliesst weite Teile des Iran ein. Aktuelle Daten seit 1976 wurden vor allem in neun Gebieten gesammelt. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass im Iran noch etwa 550–850 Leoparden leben, 55% davon in Schutzgebieten.
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Most large mammalian carnivores are in global decline, largely due to their involvement in livestock depredation. Research that advances our understanding of predator–livestock interactions is crucial to conflict mitigation and carnivore conservation. Here we investigated the influence of environmental and socio-ecological factors on livestock depredation by carnivores in pastoral villages adjacent to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya during a 14-month period. We attempted to identify factors associated with temporal and spatial variation in depredation rates, incorporating data on a closely monitored spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) population known to be involved in depredation events. Spotted hyenas, leopards (Panthera pardus) and lions (Panthera leo) were responsible for 53%, 32%, and 15% of attacks on livestock, respectively. Monthly depredation frequency was correlated positively with rainfall and negatively with natural prey abundance. Radio-telemetry revealed that hyenas defending a group territory within the Reserve spent more time outside the Reserve during months when hyena attacks on livestock were most frequent. Results of logistic regression models, which indicated spotted hyenas were most likely to attack large villages, were supported by behavioral observations of hyenas near villages. Leopards however, selected villages that were spatially isolated from other villages. Hyenas were more likely to attack livestock enclosures constructed of local bush material than those of more sturdy “pole” timber, but use of pole material more than doubled the probability of leopard attack. Selection of fence type should therefore depend on the size and relative isolation of villages. Overall, improved fences, more watch dogs, and high levels of human activity were not associated with lower livestock losses to predators.
Article
In this brief review of the status and conservation needs of the larger mammals of the Arabian peninsula, Dr Harrison, author of the standard work on the subject (volume 2 will be reviewed in the next ORYX) finds the situation not entirely depressing. Arabian oryx still probably number several hundred. The species that are in some danger include genet, lynx, leopard, cheetah, tahr, goat, red sheep, dorcas gazelle, Persian fallow deer and roe deer.
Article
Species presence/absence surveys are commonly used in monitoring programs, metapopulation studies and habitat modelling, yet they can never be used to confirm that a species is absent from a location. Was the species there but not detected, or was the species genuinely absent? Not accounting for imperfect detection of the species leads to misleading conclusions about the status of the population under study. Here some recent modelling developments are reviewed that explicitly allow for the detection process, enabling unbiased estimation of occupancy, colonization and local extinction probabilities. The methods are illustrated with a simple analysis of presence/absence data collected on larvae and metamorphs of tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) in 2000 and 2001 from Minnesota farm ponds, which highlights that misleading conclusions can result from naive analyses that do not explicitly account for imperfect detection.
Article
Leopards Panthera pardus have a catholic diet and are generally thought to prey on medium-sized ungulates; however, knowledge on which species are actually preferred and avoided is lacking, along with an understanding of why such preferences arise. Twenty-nine published and four unpublished studies of leopard diet that had relative prey abundance estimates associated with them were analysed from 13 countries in 41 different spatial locations or temporal periods throughout the distribution of the leopard. A Jacobs' index value was calculated for each prey species in each study and the mean of these was then tested against a mean of 0 using t or sign tests for preference or avoidance. Leopards preferentially prey upon species within a weight range of 10–40 kg. Regression plots suggest that the most preferred mass of leopard prey is 25 kg, whereas the mean body mass of significantly preferred prey is 23 kg. Leopards prefer prey within this body mass range, which occur in small herds, in dense habitat and afford the hunter minimal risk of injury during capture. Consequently, impala, bushbuck and common duiker are significantly preferred, with chital likely to also be preferred with a larger sample size from Asian sites. Species outside the preferred weight range are generally avoided, as are species that are restricted to open vegetation or that have sufficient anti-predator strategies. The ratio of mean leopard body mass with that of their preferred prey is less than 1 and may be a reflection of their solitary hunting strategy. This model will allow us to predict the diet of leopards in areas where dietary information is lacking, also providing information to assist wildlife managers and conservation bodies on predator carrying capacity and predator–prey interactions.