N° 56 | SPRING 2012
CATnews 56 Spring 2012
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Cover Photo: Persian leopard in Bafgh, Iran
Photo DoE Iran/CACP/UNDP/
The designation of the geographical entities in this publication, and the representation of the material, do not imply the expression of any
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CATnews 56 Spring 2012
Fig. 1. View of the survey site facing south (Photo Saman A. Ahmad).
HANA A. RAZA1*, SAMAN A. AHMAD2, NABEEL A. HASSAN1, KORSH ARARAT1 MARIWAN
QADIR3 AND LAITH ALI1
First photographic record of
the Persian leopard in
Kurdistan, northern Iraq
Under a grant from the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), the Nature Iraq
team has been researching wild goat Capra aegagrus in the Kurdistan region of
northern Iraq. On the IUCN Red List (Weinberg et al. 2008), wild goat is listed as Vul-
nerable, and our research will help to enrich international understanding about the
status of this animal in Iraq and conserve this species. During the CLP field surveys
the team set one camera trap in a habitat where it was thought to be a suitable place
for different carnivorous animals. The Persian leopard Panthera pardus was our
main target species because our team was already working on their prey species,
wild goats, and because we have seen a few incidents of the killing of leopards,
which made us want to clarify their status in our study areas. Persian leopard is an
Endangered species whose presence in Iraq, according to IUCN Red List (Khorozyan
et al. 2008) is uncertain.
According to Hatt (1959), leopards were few
and scattered. He reported only two skins ob-
tained from leopards in the Kurdistan Moun-
tains; one recorded by Pocock (1930) from
Rawanduz, and the other by Field (1955) from
Bradost Mountain. These are very old sour-
ces and no information on the presence of
this animal was documented since this time.
Studies on biodiversity in this area have been
undertaken by Nature Iraq for six years as
part of the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) Pro-
ject undertaken in partnership with the Iraqi
Ministry of Environment and with the support
of the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land &
Sea. Nature Iraq has only had confirmation of
the species presence in Iraq through animals
it has been proposed as a protected area by
Nature Iraq. It is located within the Zagros
Mountain Forest Steppe eco-region, which is
critically threatened and part of a biodiversity
hotspot. The specific study area is approxi-
mately 310 km2 within the Qara Dagh range,
which is part of the Zagros foldbelt that ex-
tends from southern Turkey through northern
Iraq and down to southwest Iran (Fig. 2). The
highest peak within the range is reaching
1,800 meters. This area is very important
due to the richness of its flora and fauna. The
habitat is mainly oak forest with vegetation
coverage of about 90%. There are more than
500 species of plants, including the national
or regional endemic species such as Galium
qaradaghense, Cousinia kopi-karadaghensis,
Symphytum kurdicum, Onosma albo-roseum,
Cephalaria syriaca, Astragalus spinosus, Ce-
phalanthera kurdica and Silybum marianum
(Al-Rawi 1988). This area contains about
12% of flora species found in Iraq. Based on
Nature Iraq's rapid assessments this area is
home to more than 8 mammal species and
over 87 bird species. Data for amphibians and
reptiles are scarce.
There have been no field studies on leopards
or their prey species in this area or Iraq as a
whole. This discovery was made in the course
of Nature Iraq’s wild goat survey, in particular
thanks to a camera trap set in the same loca-
tion over two survey periods: the first session
of camera trapping started from 1 October to
20 October 2011, where two camera traps
were set in two different mountains of Qara
Dagh Area. The first camera (Stealth Cam
STC-I540IR model) was left on Tasha Loos
Mountain for 19 days and the second came-
ra (Keep Guard KG 550 model) was left on
Jazhna Mountain, also for 19 days and both
cameras were retrieved on the same day (20
October 2011). The second session of camera
trapping started from 2 January to 13 Febru-
ary 2012, where only one camera trap (Keep
Guard KG 550 model) was set on only Jazhna
Mountain and the camera was left there for a
period of approximately one month and was
retrieved on 13 February 2012. The cameras
were not checked until they were retrieved at
the end of each survey.
Results & Discussion
During the first session of camera trapping in
6 October 2011, one picture of a male leopard
was taken (Supporting Online Material, SOM
Photo 1) with the Keep Guard KG 550 camera
that were killed. One leopard was killed by
landmine in 2009 near the village of Mortka
east of Darbandikhan Lake. This leopard was
examined by Nature Iraq staff as a mounted
specimen in 2010. A second was killed in
Diyala in 2008 (Nature Iraq & Iraqi Ministry
of Environment 2011). No live sightings have
been made in Iraq until the Nature Iraq ca-
mera trap photographed a male leopard in
October 2011. This project identifies globally,
regionally, and nationally important areas for
biological diversity within Iraq.
The area where the leopard was found (Fig. 1)
is a key biodiversity area (KBA) and therefore
CATnews 56 Spring 2012
on Jazhna Mountain, while the Stealth Cam
STC-I540IR was unsuccessful to photograph
any wildlife on Tasha Loos Mountain, and on
23 January 2012 during the second session of
camera trapping on Jazhna Mountain, ano-
ther picture of a leopard (possibly the same
individual) was caught (Fig. 3). Besides the
Persian leopard, six different species of mam-
mals were photographed by the camera trap:
wild cat Felis silvestris (SOM Photo 2), red fox
Vulpes vulpes, golden jackal Canis aureus, In-
dian crested porcupine Hystrix indica, Persian
squirrel Sciurus anomalus, and wild boar Sus
scrofa (Raza et al. 2011). In addition to this
finding, the team was successful in observing
and photographing 49 individual wild goats,
during the CLP summer and winter surveys.
Although this finding is only a beginning of
research on Persian leopard status in Iraq, it
is a great finding. As leopards were last re-
ported by locals (interviewed by Nature Iraq
staff at different sites in the Kurdistan region
in 2010 and as part of the Key Biodiversity
Areas (KBA) project) in the 1980’s, this could
spur further research on this species and its
prey species to improve our knowledge on
their conservation status in Iraq. Leopards and
wildlife in general are under threat from over-
exploitation of their main prey species, and
although the leopard is not usually hunted for
its fur or other means of use but rather killed
in self defense, as claimed by a local who re-
cently killed a leopard in one of the mountains
of Kurdistan, Northern Iraq. More studies are
needed to understand the status of leopard in
this area and all over Iraq and regulations are
needed to better control the hunting pressure.
Our thanks go to the Conservation Leadership Pro-
gramme fund for helping us to initiate a project on
wild goat conservation in Iraq. We would like to
thank the members of the Nature Iraq team who
have been dedicated for making this project a gre-
at success. We would also like to thank Amir Hus-
sein Khaleghi of the Plan4Land Society in Iran for
providing advice. Special thanks go to the forestry
police, who have been very helpful in our survey
trips to the area, for their efforts to control the hun-
ting pressure in this area. We also acknowledge
Anna Bachmann and James Wudel for editing.
Al-Rawi A. 1988. Wild Plants of Iraq with their dis-
tribution. 3rd edition. Ministry of Agriculture &
Irrigation, State board for Agricultural & Water
Resources Research National Herbarium of
Iraq. Baghdad, Iraq.
Field H. 1955. Animals of Jebel Bradost, Iraq.
Amer. Doc. Inst., Doc. No. 4427, 60-62.
Hatt R. T. 1959. The mammals of Iraq. Museum of
Zoology, Univ. of Michigan No. 106.
Khorozyan I. 2008. Panthera pardus ssp. saxicolor.
In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened
Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.
org>. Downloaded on 15 February 2012.
Nature Iraq & Iraqi Ministry of Environment. 2011.
Key Biodiversity Areas of Iraq 2010 Site Re-
view. Sulaimani: Nature Iraq. Publication No.
Pocock R. I. 1930. The Panthers and Ounces of
Asia. Ibid., pp. 64-82, 307-36.
Raza H.A., Qadir M., Ali L., Ararat K., & Abdulha-
san N. 2011. The Search for the Vulnerable
wild goat (Capra aegagrus) Continues with
Great Success. Conservation Leadership Pro-
gramme (CLP), BirdLife International, Conser-
vation International (CI), and Fauna and Flora
International (FFI): Projects in the middle east.
Retrieved from http://maildogmanager.com/
6ktHaRjkw%3D%3D on 16 February 2012.
Weinberg P., Jdeidi T., Masseti M., Nader I., de
Smet K. & Cuzin F. 2008. Capra aegagrus. In:
IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Spe-
cies. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>.
Downloaded on 15 February 2012.
Supporting Online Material at www.catsg.org/
1 Nature Iraq
2 Nature Iraq & University of Sulaimani
3 Nature Iraq & Sulaimani Environm. Directorate
Fig. 2. Google Earth Map showing Qara Dagh Area’s location within Iraq and as part
of the Zagros belt.
Fig. 3. Persian leopard caught on camera trap on January 2012 (Photo Nature Iraq/CLP).
leopard in Iraq
Raza et al. 2012. First photographic record of the Persian leopard in Kurdistan, northern Iraq. Cat
News 56, 34-35.
Supporting Online Material – Additional photos
SOM Photo 1: Male Persian Leopard Panthera pardus caught on camera trap on October 2011
SOM Photo 2. Wild Cat Felis silvestris captured by camera trap in the same area on January 2012
(Photo Nature Iraq/CLP)