People, Environment

Renewed Effort to Protect the Persian Leopard

Renewed Effort to Protect the Persian LeopardRenewed Effort to Protect the Persian Leopard

The national Persian leopard conservation project is ready and will go into effect from the beginning of the next Iranian year (March 20, 2016) for five years.

The project, which brought state and provincial officials, as well as academia and 220 NGOs together, took two years to plan, IRNA reported.

“The Department of Environment regards the conservation of Persian leopards a top priority,” said Ali Teymouri, director of the Hunting and Fishing Office at the DOE.

Over the past eight years, 166 leopards have perished across the country. Major causes of death include road accidents, hunting for hide, and poisoning by shepherds trying to protect their livestock.

A study spanning four years found that 71% of all Persian leopard fatalities were attributed to illegal hunting or poisoning.

Reduced prey population and shrinkage of the natural habitat are other factors threatening the graceful, but imperiled, big cats.

The Persian leopard is listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List.

  Umbrella Species

Teymouri said efforts to protect the Persian leopard will not only help the species, but other wildlife as well, making the Persian leopard a so-called umbrella species.

Due to its wide distribution, protecting the endangered species will also help conserve the populations of other animals that share the same habitat, such as the brown bear and hyena.

In August, the DOE announced plans to “insure” the Persian leopards to deter shepherds from killing them, but the department has so far been unable to find an insurance company willing to sell the special policy!

“We’ve held talks with several insurance companies and expect to reach an agreement with one by the end of the current Iranian year,” Teymouri said, adding that the National Environment Fund, which was revived earlier this year, has been actively helping in the matter.

Stressing the ecological value of leopards, he said that the comprehensive project covers  wide areas, namely conservation, management, education, research and monitoring.    

Earlier this year, the High Environment Council increased the fine for poaching Persian leopards to 800 million rials ($22,900), up from 50 million rials ($1,430). Furthermore, offenders may also be ordered to serve a maximum of three years in jail.