People, Environment

Leopard Deaths Declining

Leopard Deaths Declining
Leopard Deaths Declining

According to official statistics, the number of Persian leopard deaths has declined from the beginning of the current Iranian year (started March 20) until Dec. 19, thanks to increasing fines and the establishment of a wildlife insurance scheme.

"Only five leopards have died across the country so far this year, which shows a noticeable decrease compared to 13 deaths during the similar period of last year," Ali Teymouri, director of Conservation, Hunting and Fishing Office at the Department of Environment, told Mehr News Agency on Monday.

Over the past eight years, 166 leopards have died across the country. The main causes of death include road accidents, hunting and poisoning by shepherds trying to protect their livestock. However, after being insured against loss inflicted by the Persian leopard by Ma Insurance Company earlier in April, rural residents and shepherds are discouraged from taking matters into their own hands and killing the animal, the news agency quoted Teymouri as saying.

Insuring the leopard, which is listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is part of the comprehensive conservation plan issued by the DOE in February.

"The insurance company has compensated the loss of four out of five dead animals, paying 2.4 billion rials (about $62,000) to the National Environment Fund," he said.  "The money will be spent on implementing protective measures and expanding habitats for the leopards."

Relevant studies have found that 71% of all Persian leopard fatalities are attributed to illegal hunting or poisoning. Reduced prey population and shrinkage of their natural habitat are other factors threatening the graceful, but imperiled, big cats.

The Persian leopard is the only living Pantera subspecies in Iran, making the animal of immense ecological value and historical significance to the country.

Efforts to protect the Persian leopard will not only help the species, but other wildlife as well, making the 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.

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