Wild Cat Species
— Arabian Leopard
— Sand cat
— Sarawat Mountains, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
— AlUla, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Panthera’s work in the Middle East focuses on the Arabian Peninsula. With the support provided by the Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU), there is a strong focus on leopards, and specifically on restoring and conserving leopards in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The Arabian leopard is a Critically Endangered subspecies of leopard, characterized by its small size and relatively pale coat. There are thought to be less than 200 Arabian leopards left in the wild. The only other cat species found on the Arabian Peninsula are sand cat, caracal and wild cat. Caracal and wild cats likely occur sympatrically with leopards and, wherever possible, we collect data on these species. They may also benefit from interventions that aim to protect and rehabilitate core leopard sites.
Leopards and sand cats exhibit very different habitat preferences and are unlikely to co-occur, and hence, dedicated research on sand cats in this region is required in the future.
There is little reliable data on the distribution and abundance of Arabian leopards, particularly within the KSA, and our initial priority was to address this knowledge gap. Panthera undertook camera-trap and questionnaire surveys across all probable and possible leopard range in the KSA, in partnership with the RCU, to 1) establish the status of the species, 2) identify key threats facing the species, and 3) determine suitable sites where captive-bred leopards could potentially be reintroduced. The focus of the project is now to identify and prepare sites for potential leopard reintroductions in the future. Panthera will partner with local communities to conserve leopards and other wildlife around protected areas and work towards restoring habitat and prey populations in these areas. Good practices for Arabian leopard conservation in the KSA will be shared with other range states in the region (e.g. in Oman, Yemen and possibly the United Arab Emirates), to ensure that comparable and consistent information is collected across the Arabian leopard range.
Guy Balme, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Conservation Science
Gareth Mann, Ph.D.
Director, Leopard Program
Project coordinator, Arabian Leopard Initiative
Senior Field Team Leader, Arabian Leopard Initiative
Program Manager, Arabian Leopard Initiative