|Leopards have lost 75% of their historical habitat
Wednesday 4 May 2016
New research shows the big cats’ global range has shrunk by a shocking amount over the last 250 years
area of the world roamed by leopards has declined by three quarters
over the last two and a half centuries, according to the most
comprehensive effort yet to map the big cat.
they were shocked by the shrinking of the spotted hunter’s range, and
that the decline had been far worse for several of the nine subspecies
of leopards and in some parts of the world.
“We found the
leopard had lost 75% of its historical habitat, we were blown away by
that, it was much more than we feared,” said Andrew Jacobson, a
conservationist at the Zoological Society of London and lead author of
a new study on their range published in the journal PeerJ.
goal has to be to raise consciousness about the plight of the leopard,
it’s been flying under the conservation radar for a while. We hoped to
raise its profile and say ‘this cat needs your attention’.”
new work is the first known attempt to draw up a global, historical map
of the leopard. Jacobson and researchers found that in 1750 it occupied
a vast 35m sq km (13.5m sq mile) area throughout Africa, the Middle
East and Asia. But after centuries of habitat loss and hunting caused
by humans, that area shrank to just 8.5m sq km.
Leopards in Asia
have been particularly badly hit, with six regions losing over 95% of
habitat where the species has been, in Jacobson’s view, “almost
completely wiped out”.
There appeared to be a clear link between
Asia’s economic development and the leopard’s decline there, he said.
“South-east Asia and China have been developed for a long period of
time and that’s seriously constricted habitat in that area for decades.
We worry this will be the trend we will see in Africa in coming
decades, as economies grow.”