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PeerJ. 2016 May 4;4:e1974. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1974. eCollection 2016.

Leopard (Panthera pardus) status, distribution, and the research efforts across its range.

Author information

1
Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London, United Kingdom; Department of Geography, University College London, London, United Kingdom; Big Cats Initiative, National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C., United States.
2
BIOGEOMAPS , Vienna , Austria.
3
Big Cats Initiative, National Geographic Society , Washington, D.C. , United States.
4
Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University , Bronx, NY , United States.
5
IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, c/o KORA , Bern , Switzerland.
6
Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London, United Kingdom; Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx Zoo, Bronx, NY, United States.
7
Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), Tehran, Iran; Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Tubney, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom.
8
Panthera , New York, NY , United States.
9
The Wildlife Institute, Beijing Forestry University , Beijing , China.
10
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford , Tubney, Oxfordshire , United Kingdom.
11
IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, c/o KORA, Bern, Switzerland; Landmark College, Putney, VT, United States.
12
Big Cats Initiative, National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C., United States; Department of Biology, Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer, NC, United States; Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC, United States.

Abstract

The leopard's (Panthera pardus) broad geographic range, remarkable adaptability, and secretive nature have contributed to a misconception that this species might not be severely threatened across its range. We find that not only are several subspecies and regional populations critically endangered but also the overall range loss is greater than the average for terrestrial large carnivores. To assess the leopard's status, we compile 6,000 records at 2,500 locations from over 1,300 sources on its historic (post 1750) and current distribution. We map the species across Africa and Asia, delineating areas where the species is confirmed present, is possibly present, is possibly extinct or is almost certainly extinct. The leopard now occupies 25-37% of its historic range, but this obscures important differences between subspecies. Of the nine recognized subspecies, three (P. p. pardus, fusca, and saxicolor) account for 97% of the leopard's extant range while another three (P. p. orientalis, nimr, and japonensis) have each lost as much as 98% of their historic range. Isolation, small patch sizes, and few remaining patches further threaten the six subspecies that each have less than 100,000 km(2) of extant range. Approximately 17% of extant leopard range is protected, although some endangered subspecies have far less. We found that while leopard research was increasing, research effort was primarily on the subspecies with the most remaining range whereas subspecies that are most in need of urgent attention were neglected.

KEYWORDS:

Carnivore conservation; Decline; Distribution; Leopard; Panthera pardus

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