A second Biosphere Expedition was recently conducted in the Musandam Peninsula of Oman. Its main aim was to confirm the existence of an Arabian Leopard population and to collect information about its habitat, distribution and abundance.
The first such expedition was conducted last year, but it failed to find any concrete results.
Sponsored again by Land Rover, this time around the expedition was greatly successful. They found conclusive evidence of the leopard’s existence and also came across other species like the Caracal and Blanford’s fox.
The Biosphere team worked in collaboration with the Office of the Advisor for Conservation of the Environment, Diwan of Royal Court. With help from local communities they found fresh tracks of the leopard not 24 hours old. Reports of leopard calls from team members, three sightings by locals in the past two months and other evidence, verifies the presence of the cat in this region.
However it is a very small population of the leopard that survives here. Droughts, road networks and development are the main threats to the survival of this cat and its prey species.
Since the 1990’s the Arabian Leopard has been locally extinct in Arabia. Only in the mountains of Oman and possibly Yemen, a small population of this species remains. Listed as Critically endangered on the IUCN List of Threatened Species, this is the largest surviving cat population in Arabia.
In 1997 Omani Diwan of Royal Court began a study of this leopard and its prey species. The Biosphere Expedition is a significant step in this direction.