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Large carnivores have extensive spatial requirements, with ranges that often span geopolitical borders. Consequently, management of transboundary populations is subject to several political jurisdictions, often with heterogeneity in conservation challenges. In continental Asia there are four threatened leopard subspecies with transboundary populations spanning 23 countries: the Persian Panthera pardus saxicolor, Indochinese P. pardus delacouri, Arabian P. pardus nimr and Amur P. pardus orientalis leopards. We reviewed the status of these subspecies and examined the challenges to, and opportunities for, their conservation. The Amur and Indochinese leopards have the majority (58–100%) of their remaining range in borderlands, and the Persian and Arabian leopards have 23–26% of their remaining ranges in borderlands. Overall, in 18 of 23 countries the majority of the remaining leopard range is in borderlands, and thus in most countries conservation of these subspecies is dependent on transboundary collaboration. However, we found only two transboundary initiatives for Asian leopards. Overall, we highlighted three key transboundary landscapes in regions that are of high importance for the survival of these subspecies. Recent listing of the leopard in the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals is important, but more international collaboration is needed to conserve these subspecies. We provide a spatial framework with which range countries and international agencies could establish transboundary cooperation for conserving threatened leopards in Asia.
The leopard Panthera pardus, categorized globally as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, has the widest distribution of any wild felid species, although in Asia it has declined dramatically and five subspecies are Endangered or Critically Endangered. In China at least three subspecies have been reported to occur throughout much of the country, and in 1998 the population was estimated to be 1,000. However, recent studies have indicated that leopards have disappeared from large areas, probably as a result of habitat loss, a low prey base and poaching, indicating this species may not be as common in China as previously believed. To examine this we reviewed recent literature and interviewed specialists to determine the current status and distribution of the leopard in China. Our findings indicate that the species has declined dramatically, with confirmation of presence at only 44 sites in 11 provinces, despite extensive surveys. Current populations are small and fragmented, and occur mainly in isolated nature reserves. We estimate a total population of only 174–348 P. pardus japonensis (the north Chinese leopard), which is endemic to China, and < 30 individuals for each of the other subspecies whose distributions extend beyond China. We recommend that a separate IUCN assessment be made for P. pardus japonensis, and that this subspecies be categorized as Critically Endangered. Our findings are the first reliable estimates of the current distribution and status of the leopard in China, and provide valuable information that will help guide conservation efforts.
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