United Arab Emirates try to save the Arabian leopard
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2003:
SHARJAH, UAE–Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Quasimi of
Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates in mid-February 2003 hosted an
international conference on saving the Arabian leopard, which was
considered extinct until a goatherd shot one in 1992. Experts now
think 150 to 250 Arabian leopards persist in the UAE, Yemen,
Oman, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
About three times larger than a domestic housecat, the
Arabian leopard normally hunts Nubian ibex, the Arabian gazelle,
and wild or feral goats. The Animal Management Consultancy, funded
by Al Quasimi, has a wild population of 10 Arabian leopards, has
bred eight in captivity, and in January purchased a wild-caught
leopard named Al Wadei from a roadside zoo in Yemen, where according
to Severin Carrell of the London Independent he was kept in
The Sharjah leopard conference was convened two weeks after
reporter Nasouh Nazzal of Ras Al Khaimah disclosed that one Abdullah
Khamis Rashid Al Habsi, 65, recently stoned to death a “lynx” that
he claimed was about to attack him, and that Al Habsi admitted to
shooting one two years earlier, also in purported self-defense.
Lynx or Arabian leopard, the endangered cats of the UAE “do
not harm human beings,” scoffed Saif Al Ghais, vice chair of the
West Indian Ocean Marine Specialist Turtles Group. “They go on the
prowl in residential areas in search of food because their wild prey
have disappeared,” casualties of hunting and poaching.
“Had there been alternative prey in the mountains, the lynx
would never enter residential areas,” Al Ghais added, suggesting
that “The government should release prey for the lynx in the
mountains. This will protect them and prevent attacks on cattle.”
Al Ghais told Nassouh Nazzal that he would initiate such an effort.
Al Ghais was among the UAE turtle conservationists who were
honored on February 5 for preserving the hawksbill turtle breeding
habitat on Qarnein Island in the Persian Gulf, 110 miles northwest
of Abu Dhabi. The island is also breeding habitat for about 20,000
pairs of lesser-crested and bridle terns, sooty gulls, and Socotran
The UAE leopard conference reflected growing concern about
the survival of rare leopards and other wild cats throughout Islamic
Asia. The leopard populations of India, Africa, and southeast
Asia, including China, are considered stressed but stable wherever
prey is abundant and active efforts are made to suppress poaching.
Relatively little has been done to protect leopards in the
Islamic parts of Asia, however, where they have been aggressively
hunted and where arid habitat keeps prey scarce.
The United Nations Environment Program and International Snow
Leopard Trust warned in January that western aid workers and soldiers
shopping at the Chicken Street bazaar in Kabul, Afghanistan, have
become frequent purchasers of leopard pelts.
“They are not bought by the locals because they are too
expensive,” said Kabul-based British reporter Lucy Morgan Edwards.
“The aid workers are much more careful with their money,” she added,
“perhaps because they are not well paid. They tend to spend more
time haggling over prices than the soldiers.”
UNEP said that leopard poaching appears to have increased
since the former Taliban government of Afghanistan fell in December
About 100 snow leopards are believed to survive in
Afghanistan, and about 3,500 throughout the whole of Central Asia.
The World Wildlife Fund cautioned meanwhile that as few as 20
Caucasus leopards remain in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.
Like the Arabian leopard, the Caucasus leopard was
considered extinct by the 1960s, but poachers have been caught with
fresh remains once or twice a year since the 1991 collapse of the
Soviet Union, which permitted a revival of clandestine traffic in
WWF announced a $250,000 effort to save the Caucasus leopard
which will focus upon anti-poaching measures and public education.