Leopards are masters of camouflage. Often, they will hide and watch, rather than run, relying on their ability to blend into their surroundings.
Javan leopard from Baluran National Park in Indonesia. Photographed by Andrew Stein
Range Map of Leopard Distribution
This map, published in Jacobson et al. 2016, is the culmination of two years of data collection across Africa, the Middle East and Asia
Leopards are the most adaptable and secretive of all the big cats. Their distribution is wider than any other wild cat extending from the savannas of southern Africa, through the arid environments of the Middle East, mountain slopes of the Himalayas, the rainforests of southeast Asia, and even the temperate forests of China and the Russian Far-East. Their secretive nature and adaptability has allowed them to survive, often unnoticed, even in suburban and urban areas of India, yet these cats also have the distinction of being the most persecuted. Always in the shadow of the more imperiled lion in Africa or tiger in Asia, leopards were always assumed to be thriving. However with increased habitat fragmentation, prey loss and conflict with livestock and human populations, leopards are rapidly losing ground and the seams are starting to show.
In 2014, the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List decided to re-evaluate the global status of leopards. The Red List is the body that determines whether a species should be listed as Endangered or not based on population size, range size or concerning trends to either of these markers of population health. CLAWS founder, Dr. Andrew Stein, coordinated the effort working with colleagues from multiple countries to develop the most up to date range map based. The previous assessment, which was conducted in 2008, was as comprehensive as possible at that time, but technological advancements have been made in the last 7 years for surveying leopard populations throughout their geographic range. The result is the most accurate global survey ever conducted.
As a result of the survey, leopards are now listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Based on our findings, we have identified areas of concern for future work on leopard population ecology and human-leopard conflict, including potential key collaborations in Egypt, Indonesia, Iran and Botswana. As part of a larger information campaign, our range map was featured in National Geographic magazine.
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