Leopards have lost 75 percent of their historical range
A study published Wednesday suggests that leopards have lost 75% of their historical range since 1750, originally stretching throughout Africa, Eurasia and some Pacific islands.
According to the three-year long study, the new research shows that these big cats are more threatened than previously thought.
Because of the leopard’s historically large geographic range and the cat’s impressive ability to adapt, it was thought that the species might not be too terribly threatened. But the study found that while leopards historically occupied around 13.5 million square miles, today they only have around 3.3 million square miles.
“Leopards’ secretive nature, coupled with the occasional, brazen appearance of individual animals within megacities like Mumbai and Johannesburg, perpetuates the misconception that these big cats continue to thrive in the wild—when actually our study underlines the fact that they are increasingly threatened,” Luke Dollar, a study co-author said.
The study is the largest of its kind, compiling 6,000 records of leopard abundance at 2,500 locations.
Based of the findings, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has recommended that the leopard (Panthera pardus) be reclassified as “vulnerable,” indicating that stronger conservation efforts are needed. The species is currently listed as “near threatened,” with three subspecies classified as “critically endangered” and two others as “endangered.”
The leopard’s decline is particularly severe in North Africa, where the animal has lost 99% of its habitat. Leopards are doing best in areas of sub-Saharan Africa and India, according to the study.
“Our next steps in this very moment will determine the leopard’s fate,” Andrew Jacobson, the study’s lead author, said. “The international conservation community must double down in support of initiatives protecting the species.”