Two field trips were made to Yemen to look for signs of remaining Arabian leopards, to train local scientists, and to develop a national leopard survey strategy.
Yemen is a key site for conservation of the Arabian leopard because it contains a large part of the species’ former range. The main obstacle to an effective conservation programme is the lack of information on its current status.
December 2007 saw the launch of a collaborative project between the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, University of Sana’a, Environmental Protection Agency in Yemen and the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, Sharjah with a view to carrying out a rapid assessment survey of Wada’a in the western mountains, and initiating a capacity-building programme to ensure long-term sustainability of leopard conservation within the country. In Wada’a, people have traditionally captured leopards in stone traps and sold them to zoos and private collections.
The project team visited Wada’a to assess the current status of leopards in the area, and discuss conservation issues with the local community, who, it was found, had stopped catching leopards and were very willing to cooperate on a conservation programme.
Other sites in the western mountains were visited during two fieldtrips, and local reports of leopards were received from several places, including a large area along the border of Amran and Hajjah governorates. In this area, the terrain is steep and rugged and field surveys are demanding. Local partners were trained in field techniques and a questionnaire survey was developed by Sana’a University and successfully trialled during the second field trip. A national survey strategy was also developed to aid the collection and processing of information on leopard presence, and in planning future field surveys.
A new NGO, the Yemen Leopard Recovery Project, has been established and has succeeded in getting the Arabian leopard adopted as Yemen’s national animal.