Remote cameras document Oman's rare Arabian leopards

Published 9:51 PM ET, Wed January 19, 2022
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An Arabian leopard photographed in Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve in southern Oman. These elusive creatures are rarely seen in the flesh, but conservationists monitor them via camera traps. Courtesy Hadi Al Hikmani
The Arabian leopard is one of eight leopard subspecies and once lived across the Arabian Peninsula. But today its range is limited to isolated pockets, with the largest wild populations in Oman and Yemen. It is thought there are fewer than 200 adults left living in the wild. Courtesy Hadi Al Hikmani
The leopard subspecies has its largest population in Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve (pictured) in Dhofar, southern Oman. Around 20 to 30 adults live inside the 4,500 square kilometer (1,737 square mile) protected area. The population here is considered relatively stable, according to local conservationist Hadi Al Hikmani. Courtesy Hadi Al Hikmani
An Arabian leopard photographed in Jamal Qamar, another mountainous area in Dhofar. Courtesy Hadi Al Hikmani
Killing a leopard or its prey species (such as the Arabian gazelle) has been illegal in Oman since 1976 and is punishable with imprisonment and/or a fine. Courtesy Hadi Al Hikmani
Al Hikmani says policy and education programs have changed local opinions towards the Arabian leopard. Historically, the animal was killed by pastoralists for preying on livestock. Today, a compensation program is in place to prevent retribution killings. Courtesy Hadi Al Hikmani
A pair of Arabian leopards photographed in Jabal Samhan. Oman has a known breeding population, but data in other countries is limited. In Saudi Arabia and Israel, for example, the Arabian leopard has not been seen in the wild for some years. Courtesy Hadi Al Hikmani
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Arabian leopard as critically endangered and is currently reassessing its population and range. Courtesy Hadi Al Hikmani
Though populations are currently isolated from one another around the Arabian Peninsula, there is some evidence in Oman that the Arabian leopard is returning to its historic range. It has been spotted in new areas of Dhofar in recent years. Courtesy Hadi Al Hikmani