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Leopard (Panthera pardus) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Global population size

  • Estimates for subspecies currently being updated by IUCN (Jan Kamler, personal communication, 2018)
  • Good estimates available from IUCN Cat Specialist Group (IUCN Cat Specialist Group 2018)
    • See website -- first table under "Status and Distribution"
  • Population updates not yet on IUCN Cat Specialist website (as of 2018 Aug 03)
    • Amur leopard, P. p. orientalis
      • See Conservation Status, below
    • North Chinese leopard, P. p. japonensis
      • 174-348 individuals, total population (Laguardia et al. 2017)
  • Population sizes difficult to quantify (Williams et al. 2018)
    • Some past estimates considered unreliable (summarized in Henschel et al. 2008)
      • 700,000+ in Africa; commonly cited, though calculation was reportedly flawed (Henschel et al. 2008)
      • c. 10,000 in India; estimate likely inaccurate
      • Population estimates of endangered sub-species listed the following conservation section

Population trend

  • Decreasing in number (summarized in Henschel et al. 2008)
    • Eradicated from c. 37% of their historic African range (Ray et al. 2005)
    • Legal hunting and export permitted for 12 African countries, per the Convention for the International Trade of endangered species (Henschel et al. 2008)
      • Annual quota for all countries: 2648 individuals (Balme et al. 2010)

Range estimates of subspecies

Conservation Status

IUCN Status

  • Vulnerable (2015 assessment) (Stein et al. 2016)
    • Declining in large portions of their range; though widely distributed
  • Previous assessments
    • 2008 - Near Threatened (Henschel et al. 2008)
    • 2002 - Least Concern
    • 1990 - Threatened (IUCN 1990)
    • 1988 - Threatened (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1998)
    • 1986 - Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
  • Five sub-species were listed individually in 2008
    • Note: These sub-species were not part of the 2015 re-assessment by Stein et al. (2016).
    • P. p. kotiya: Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1; assessed in 2008 (by Kittle and Watson)
      • Estimated population size: 700-950
      • Declining numbers
    • P. p. melas: Critically Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1; assessed in 2008 (Ario et al. 2008)
      • Estimated population size: 363-525
      • Declining numbers
    • P. p. nimr: Critically Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1; assessed in 2008 (Mallon et al. 2008)
      • < 200
      • Declining numbers; persistence in Saudi Arabia questionable, likely extinct in Jordan and Egypt's Sinai peninsula
    • P. p. orientalis: Critically Endangered C2a(ii); D ver 3.1; assessed in 2008 (by Jackson and Nowell)
      • Small population, but increasing due to establishment of a protected area in Russia; populations unknown from China
      • Estimated population size: at least 84 adults; 19 cubs (WWF 2018 news story, reporting estimates based on camera trap images collected in 2017)
        • Image data collected, processed, and analyzed by Land of the Leopard National Park (press release), WCS, AHO Far Eastern leopards (a Russian organization partnering with LLNP), Amur branch of WWF-Russia (Kate Graves, WWF, personal communication, 2018)
      • Vitkalova et al. (2018) provide estimates based on camera trap images collected in 2014 and 2015
    • P. p. saxicolor: Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1; assessed in 2008 (Jackson and Nowell 2008)
      • Estimated population size: 871-1,290; mostly found in Iran
      • Declining numbers

CITES Status

Other Status

  • Afghanistan
    • Protected Species List (2009); prohibits all hunting and trade within the country
  • India
    • Listed under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972; prohibits hunting and trade
    • Adequately protected within reserves/protected areas; enforcement is adequate (Jan Kamler, personal communication, 2018)
      • Less well-protected outside of reserves
  •  

Threats to Survival

Human driven threats most prominent (from Henschel et al. 2008; Balme et al. 2009a, unless otherwise noted)

  • Habitat loss and fragmentation
  • Competition for prey with humans
  • Poisoning, intentional and incidental
  • Hunting
    • Trophy hunting
      • Large revenue stream; retained predominantly at national and international levels (Jorge et al. 2013)
    • Poaching
      • Small revenue generation; retained predominantly at the household level (Jorge et al. 2013)
    • Trade of skins and canine teeth
      • Occurs in some central and West African countries; Djibouti
      • Used locally in traditional rituals
      • Sold to French military personnel and illegally carried into Europe
      • Historic exports to U.S. 1968-1970
        • c. 18,500 leopard skins (Myers 1971)
    • Killed for pest control
      • Mitigation against livestock loss; real and perceived (Balme et al. 2009a)
      • In India attacks on humans encourage fear in some regions
        • 2005-2011: 29 attacks near the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in the Chandrapur District of central India (Dhanwatey et al. 2013)

Management Actions

Needed actions (from Henschel et al. 2008 unless otherwise noted)

  • Develop conflict mitigation strategies
    • Numerous regions where leopards and livestock management are at odds
      • African Wildlife Foundation: involved in programs integrating the needs of leopards with those of local peoples
      • In Arabia, leopards often kill many (10-15) sheep or goats at a time, only consuming 1-2 (Al Johany 2007)
  • Expand and continue enforcement of protected areas
    • Corridors for dispersal needed to link populations
    • Sufficient land needed to ensure viable populations
  • Increase legal protection
    • Expand and strengthen laws on illegal trade
      • Legal international trafficking limited to export of skins and hunting trophies by 13 African countries; quota of 2,590 in 2005

Breeding in managed care

  • Arabian leopard (P. pardus nimr(from Budd and Leus 2011)
    • Regional program began in 1999
    • Participating institutions
      • Located in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates
    • Current program stats
      • Includes 77 individuals; 42 males, 32 females, and 3 of unknown gender (based on reported values in 2010)
    • Managing population to maintain and hopefully increase genetic variability of breeding stock
  • Amur leopard (P.p. orientalis(AZA 2012; Fletchall 2009; Kelly et al. 2013)
    • International program
    • In North America, Association of Zoos and Aquaria (AZA)
      • 48 individuals suitable for breeding (as of August 2012)
      • Target breeding population size: 100
    • In Europe, European AZA (Kelly et al. 2013)
      • Track captive populations for Europe and Russia
    • Captive population with greater genetic variability than in the wild (Uphyrkina et al. 2002)
      • Genetic introgression from the regionally adjacent subspecies, P.p. japonensis
        • Introduction of genes by hybridization
      • Gene flow historically possible due to recent range overlap (fewer than a few hundred years ago)
      • Captive population viewed as an acceptable representative for Amur leopards, not a "mongrel population"
    • Possible source population for reintroduction efforts, see below

Reintroduction programs

  • Amur leopard (P.p. orientalis) (from Kelly et al. 2013)
    • Not currently authorized (as of 2013)
      • Proposal (1996) to establish a population into former range of Sikhote-Alin in Primorsky Krai
      • Research and preparation underway
        • Cooperative effort by Far Eastern Leopard Conservation Strategy of the Russian Federation, the IUCN's Reintroduction Guidelines of 1998, and by a group of international and Russian scientists
      • Planning by Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance
        • Conducted by a coalition of 14 international and Russian nongovernmental organizations
    • Goal
      • Grow population size through introduction of (in situ) captive-bred individuals
        • Founder individuals to be selected from those in zoological facilities

Conservation Organizations

Conservation Organizations

  • Panthera
    • International organization whose mission is to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action
    • Project Pardus
    • Supports Munyawana Leopard Project, a long-term, comprehensive study that helps guide policy makers to create sustainable conservation solutions
  • Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA)
    • Supports conservation programs for the Amur leopard
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
    • Assists Russian scientists conducting surveys to estimate density and distribution of the Amur leopard
    • Works to improve wildlife management and promote leopard and tiger conservation in multiple-use forests
    • Works with governmental organizations to improve fire suppression and prevention in the region where leopards live

Subspecies Threatened and Endangered

a leopard's face

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Al Johany (2007)
AZA (2012)
Balme et al. (2009a)
Balme et al. (2010)
Budd and Leus (2011)
Dhanwatey et al. (2013)
Fletchall (2009)
Henschel et al. (2008)
Jorge et al. (2013)
Kelly et al. (2013)
Myers (1971)
Ray et al. (2005)
Uphyrkina et al. (2002)

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