Panthera pardus (Linnaeus 1758) Leopard
Hebrew name: נמר, namer
Global Threat: NE – Not Evaluated
Regional Threat: CR (A1ac, D) – Critically Endangered
Distribution area: A relict sub-population in the Judean Desert, a small sub-population in the Negev Highlands. Isolated individuals can be found in the Mediterranean region.
Historic distribution: In the early 19th century leopards inhabited all suitable habitats in Israel. The Judean Mountains, Carmel and Ramot Menashe leopards were eliminated between the end of the 19th century and 1920. The Galilee leopards (between 1925-1956 at least 14 leopards were hunted or poisoned in this area) followed in their wake. The Judean Desert population probably reached its peak in the 1980s, when it comprised 8-10 adult leopards, but declined from 1986 to the end of the 20th century (Timna 2000).
Typical Habitat: The leopard is very flexible ecologically, and can be found in Mediterraniean woodland as well as in the desert (Ilani 1979). It populates any habitat providing cover from which to ambush its prey, such as mountainous areas between rocks and maqui thickets. Leopards inhabit only areas that can provide suitable food – small and medium-sized herbivores: hyrax, ibex, porcupine and wild boar (Ilani 1979).
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Hunting for sport or persecution resulting from leopard penetration into human settlements to prey on domestic animals (cats, dogs, goats and sheep).
Population Size Estimate: 10-20 individuals (Timna 2000).
Fluctuations in Population Size: The estimated leopard population decreased by about 90% during the 20th century. The Judean Desert population decreased by about 80% from the mid-1980s to the mid 1990s.
Isolation between Subpopulations: There is substantial fragmentation between the Mediterranean leopards and the desert leopards (Judean Desert and Negev Highlands).
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation: Creating a continuum of nature reserves extending over hundreds of square kilometers in the Judean Desert and the Negev Highlands, with additional reserves in the form of 20-km wide natural corridors linking the Judean Desert and the Negev Highlands.