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The world's smallest leopard is clinging to life in the mountains of Oman

The Arabian leopard is one of the world's rarest leopard subspecies, with fewer than 200 adults thought to exist in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Cat Specialist Group (IUCN).  Their presence is uncertain as it is on the verge of extinction due to its law-abiding nature.

The leopard was sighted in the Arabian Peninsula, but now its appearance is rarest in Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and possibly Israel. Reports suggest that their presence is blurred in either Saudi Arabia or Israel. Human-wildlife conflict, prey species hunting, and habitat loss are all contributing factors to its decline. Wildlife and conservationist are burning their midnight oil for the future of the leopard and working on plans for their preservationsOnam is home to the world’s largest population of Arabian leopards.  It is at the forefront and is playing a crucial role in protecting the Arabian Leopard.

Al Hikmani, manager of environmental affairs expresses that leopard are shy. It’s rare to view them. The only way to catch a glimpse is by camera trapping or genetic sampling. Previously, the pastorals killed them, poisoned, and shot them to protect livestock. However, such activities are banned since 1976.

“In 2014, the government has started a new initiative to protect the livestock for their farmers which has proven effective,” said Al Hikmani. Andrew Sparton, the retired conservationist met Al Hikmani during their fieldwork and never regretted their meeting. Today Hikmani is a great success story and has ingrown varied knowledge about securing the future of the species.

    In Saudi Arabia, the situation sounds grim. The last leopard was heard poisoned in 2014. The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has collected a fund of around $25 million to bring back the lost ecosystem of the leopards. Spalton himself is working on a charity fund for cats and leopards. His initiative is showing renewed results. The latest of 16 cubs were born last April. However, in Yemen things sound unpredictable. The only recent evidence is through images. Evidence suggested few leopards are captured alive. Unfortunately, it still showcases mixed results. Israel still shows signs of possibility. Leopards are still not extinct however no such reporting are shown off as yet. However, Onam has announced fresh news of a second unprotected area in Dhofar promising sanctuary for the leopard. Meanwhile, increasing ecotourism could create jobs and generate income for local communities, according to Spalton.

Al Hikmani is working effectively to chalk out plans for professional training to Omanis to contribute to fieldwork. The motive is to rectify past mistakes and preserve the leopard species.

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