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photo: Shaked Buchbout
Name: Persian leopard
Scientific Name: Panthera pardus saxicolor
Global Conservation Status: Endangered (EN)
In Israel: extinct in Israel; it is unclear if the northern sub-type of Galilee leopard is the same type as the Persian leopard. Another sub-type, the desert leopard, still lives in the Negev, in Israel’s south.
At the Zoo: a young male named Leo and two females, Adar and Ashur. Ashur has three legs.
In the Bible: Leopards are mentioned a number of times in the bible:
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. “ Jeremiah chapter 13, verse 23
Habitat and Distribution: The Persian leopard lives in mountainous regions (altitudes of up to 3,800 meters), as well as forests and grassy areas in Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of Turkmenistan and spreads to the Caucuses region and eastern Turkey. In the past, they also lived in the Middle East, and this is probably where the sub-type of Galilee leopard lived, in the Galilee and Golan, up to 50 years ago.
Body Structure: body length ranges from 160 to 250 cm. Weight can reach up to 90 kg. Females tend to be smaller than males.
Diet: Leopards are top predators. They feed on large animals, such as wild boar, wild sheep, deer, gazelles, and smaller animals, such as hyrax porcupines and rabbits.
Social Structure: solitary
Activity cycle: nocturnal
Threats in the wild: hunting, destruction of their natural habitat and conflict with humans
photo: Shai Ben Ami
Interesting to Note:
The leopard is one of the most varied and interesting types of large felines. They have the widest range of geographic distribution and can be found in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. They have varied habitats, from mountain cliffs to rain forests and deserts of the Savanna. Their colors include a range of yellow and black pattern, and some are even completely black. Leopards are known for their amazing ability to catch large and heavy prey and transfer it to the treetops, far from other predators, where they can eat it without worry. Leopards are the only animals who exhibit this behavior. They are mostly active at night.
Gestation for the leopard is 90 – 100 days, with the female giving birth to a litter of 1 – 4 cubs, who will remain with her for a year. In the wild, life expectancy is up to fifteen years, but they can live up to 20 years in captivity. The largest danger for leopards today is humans, who hunt them for fur, destroy their habitats, and poison them. Leopards considered as a threat to agriculture for humans. Over the last 20 years, there has been a change in the public’s approach to wearing animal fur, which has resulted in a reduction in the hunting of leopards. Nonetheless, their situation is still very sensitive. In Israel lived two sub-species of leopards- the first being the northern or Galilee leopard, living in the forested areas of the Jerusalem hills, Samaria, the Galilee, the Carmel, and the Golan. This leopard, large and heavy, became extinct in the 1960’s, when the last ones were hunted. The second sub-specie, the desert leopard, is the smallest sub-species, with the male weighing up to 40 kg, and the female weighing up to 20 kg. This sub-specie still exists in the wild, in the Negev in southern Israel but apparently have become extinct from the Judean desert. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, desert leopard population flourished in the Judean desert which was documented by zoologists and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, but due to various reasons such as being run over by vehicles, inbreeding, and a dearth of females, these leopards have almost completely disappeared. The most recent studies estimate the numbers of leopards in the Negev at approximately 8 – 10 individuals. Breeding the Persian leopards is being done as part of the EEP program of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). The male leopard was brought to our zoo from the zoo in Rome, Italy, and we hope that he will succeed in breeding with the females.