Culture & Society
Written By: David Stanton for the Yemen Observer
Article Date: Apr 26, 2011 - 12:16:27 PM
Did you know that the Arabian Leopard is also known as panthera pardus nimr? In this question-and-answer article you can find out so much more about this endangered species.
What do Arabian Leopards look like?
Arabian Leopards are the largest and most powerful predators in Arabia. They are smaller than leopards that live in other parts of Asia and Africa. Female Arabian Leopards reach a maximum weight of 24kg and males average about 10kg more than that. Arabian Leopards have very long tails which they use for balance and these animals measure from about 1.6-meters for a small female to 2.1-meters for a large male. Arabian Leopards are different from other leopards. They are paler, thinner and having golden-brown eyes. Like other leopards, Arabian Leopards are covered with spots which help camouflage them.
What do Arabian Leopards need to survive?
Arabian Leopards need large wilderness areas where there is permanent surface water, enough prey for them to eat, sheltered areas to raise their families and freedom from persecution by humans.
What do Arabian Leopards eat?
Arabian Leopards’ favorite foods include animals such as the Nubian Ibex, Arabian Tahr and the Mountain Gazelle. They also eat other animals such as porcupines, hyraxes, hares, foxes and birds such as partridges and doves when they can be caught. Because they are so adaptable, it is possible that Arabian Leopards may also eat other animals such as small carnivores including mongooses and genets. They even eat reptiles, rodents and large insects.
What is the Arabian Leopards’ family life like?
Arabian Leopards are solitary animals that seldom interact with one another. Males and females get together briefly during the breeding season when they mate frequently during the female’s five day heat period. After mating they go their separate ways. Approximately 100 days after mating the female gives birth to between one and four cubs. She chooses a naturally protected den such as a cave or overhang where the cubs stay for the first month of their lives although the mother may move them to new dens from time to time for protection. About ten days after they are born the cubs eyes open and like most cats the cubs become increasingly curious as they grow older. They explore and play to develop the skills and knowledge that they will need to survive in their harsh world.
How many Arabian Leopards are there and where do they live?
Nobody knows for sure how many Arabian Leopards there are left in the world but the wild population is probably less than 200. This makes the Arabian Leopard one of the rarest cats in the world. In addition to the few wild Arabian Leopards, at least 60 are kept in private collections and breeding centers around the region. Arabian Leopards are extinct in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. They are probably extinct in the United Arab Emirates and may even be gone from Saudi Arabia too. Surviving Arabian Leopard populations include those in the Judean highlands and Negev Desert of Palestine/Israel here there are about seven individuals. There are about 50 Arabian Leopards in Dhofar Oman. The Arabian Leopard is also found across various mountains and wadis in Yemen. On January 11 2011 the Foundation for the Protection of the Arabian Leopard in Yemen photographed a leopard in the Hawf protected area and became the first organization to ever photograph a wild Arabian Leopard outside of Oman. A second leopard was photographed there on February 24 2011.
Why are Arabian Leopards so rare?
Arabian Leopards have never been common because they need large areas with permanent water and adequate prey. In the last fifty years the number of Arabian Leopards has decreased dramatically for a variety of reasons. People kill the natural prey of the leopards which forces them to hunt sheep and goats which in turn leads people to kill the leopards in order to protect their flocks. The human population in Arabia is growing very rapidly, pushing leopards out of the wild places that they need to survive. Some people kill leopards because they think it makes them manly to do so and others hunt them so that they can try to sell their skins. In recent years, many Yemeni leopards have been trapped for sale to people in neighboring countries where they are kept in private animal collections.
Why should we protect Arabian Leopards?
Arabian Leopards are creations of Allah that should be treasured like all of Allah’s other creations. Arabian Leopards are an important part of Yemen’s natural and cultural heritage which must be preserved if we are to retain our Yemeni identity intact. Arabian Leopards are a vital part of a healthy ecosystem. If we protect Arabian Leopards then we will be protecting every other part of the environments in which they live.
What is being done to protect Arabian Leopards?
Every country where Arabian Leopards are found has created laws to protect them but these laws need stronger enforcement. The international trade in Arabian Leopards is also prohibited by the international Convention for the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Breeding centers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman have been developed to help increase the population of Arabian Leopards. The goal of these programs is eventually to release Arabian Leopards back into the wild but it will be many years before the protected areas where the leopards can be released are safe enough to receive them. The Foundation for the Protection of the Arabian Leopard in Yemen is working to ensure an expanding population of wild Arabian Leopards by increasing public awareness, understanding, sympathy, commitment and involvement in the effort to save Arabian Leopards. It is trying to improve the breeding success of captive Arabian Leopards in Sana’a and Taiz zoos and it is lobbying for real protection of wild Arabian Leopards where they still live in Yemen.
What can you do to protect the Arabian Leopard in Yemen?
You can take pride in your national animal and let others know that they should too. You can write letters to members of your government and the press to let them know that Yemen’s national animal is an important aspect of Yemen culture that should receive the full protection of the law and the people.
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