Protect Leopards From Extinction

leopard_by_robin_bos

Target: Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group

Goal: Increase conservation efforts to save leopards from habitat loss and poaching.

A new study has shown that leopards now occupy only 25 to 37 percent of their historic range, a devastating decline in a species considered to be the most widespread big cat in the world. Leopards are known for their reclusive nature and ability to adapt, and according to co-author Luke Dollar these traits have led to a common “misconception that these big cats continue to thrive in the wild – when actually our study underlies the fact that they are increasingly threatened.” As a result, conservation efforts have been inadequate. The majority of leopard range is not legally protected, putting the subspecies with lower numbers at a greater risk of extinction.

According to the study, leopard populations have declined in West and North Africa and are nearly nonexistent in parts of the Arabian Peninsula and China. Their overall range has shrunk from 13.5 million square miles to 3.3 million square miles, and the Amur, Arabian, and north Chinese subspecies are especially at risk. Habitat loss is a serious danger to all leopard subspecies, and the added threat of poaching is driving the species toward extinction. Leopards are a target for trophy hunters, and their spotted skins are considered valuable in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. Since the leopard is not considered an endangered species, it lacks essential protections that would regulate and minimize this kind of hunting.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is considering upgrading the official Red List status of leopards from near threatened to vulnerable, so now is the time to speak up for increased leopard protection. Sign the petition below to encourage this reclassification and the added protections it would bring, and demand greater conservation efforts to keep leopard populations from dying out.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Dr. Smart,

A study recently published in the journal PeerJ has cast light on the devastating decline of leopard populations, highlighting the necessity for greater conservation efforts to protect this threatened species. According to the study, leopards now occupy just 25 to 37 percent of their historic range. The majority of this range is not legally protected, and as a result leopard populations have declined in West and North Africa and have almost died out in parts of China and the Arabian Peninsula.

Habitat loss and poaching are both serious threats, and the leopard’s spotted skin makes it a target for hunters looking to make a profit. The leopard is considered to be the most widespread big cat in the world, and people do not view it as a threatened species despite evidence of its decline. An upgrade in the species’ Red List status would make a significant difference in changing this perception. The Amur, Arabian, and north Chinese subspecies in particular are at serious risk and deserve to be listed as endangered.

I am urging you to follow through with the decision to change the leopard’s Red List status from near threatened to vulnerable, with higher classifications for the more endangered subspecies. Please take action to encourage more research and conservation efforts to protect this threatened species, and save the leopard from further population decline due to habitat loss and poaching.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: robin bos

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