Rare big cats need care

Conserving the endangered species of Arabian leopard is a daunting task. A large number of them were living undisturbed in forests and were roaming freely on Dhofar mountains. But not anymore. With the development of roads and large-scale development on the mountains, these leopards are moving to safer areas. They are also losing their prey. The wildlife specialists are working with the Office for Conservation of Environment at the Diwan of Royal Court to study their behaviour and habitat. Efforts are also on to track the number of Arabian leopards living in Dhofar.
Some sources say there are around 200 leopards in Oman.
The field researchers working for the conservation of Arabian leopards (Panthera pardus nimr) in Oman, however, are happy some leopard cubs have been spotted.
It is a positive indication for this rare species classified as “critically endangered” by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) since 1996. The findings indicate mountains in Dhofar are still home to Arabian leopards.
Research on wild Arabian leopards in Oman began in the 1990s in the Governorate of Dhofar.
Due to the elusive nature of this species, a combination of techniques such as camera-trapping, radio-collaring and diet and genetic analysis of leopard faeces have been applied to track them.

Camera traps are a cost-effective tool to establish their presence/ absence, their relative abundance and their prey on the Dhofar mountains.
It helps track the number of leopards found within an area.
Among the techniques to identify their habitat, scat or faecal sampling is useful in tracking leopards.
The non-invasive tool is also widely used in large carnivore studies.
The Arabian leopard scat analysis has enabled researchers to reveal the diet of the leopards in the wild.
Research is in progress to extract DNA from scats for further genetic analysis.
The challenge of conservation comes from local residents.
Sometimes leopards attack the camels and other livestock of the local residents, who target them without understanding the real damage they are causing.
Thus, this is important for all stakeholders to conserve the leopards. This can be achieved through awareness campaigns and direct involvement of local people as rangers.

Kaushalendra Singh