Conservation plan revealed

After months of speculation, the Department of Environment has issued its long-awaited plan to protect the rare Persian leopard.

The plan was communicated to relevant organizations across the country on Sunday, but the press was informed two days later.

“The Persian leopard is the only living Pantera subspecies in Iran which is of immense ecological value and historical significance to the country,” the department said in a statement.

Efforts to protect the Persian leopard will not only help the species, but other wildlife as well, making the Persian leopard a so-called umbrella species. Due to its wide distribution, protecting the endangered species will also help conserve the populations of other animals that share the same habitat, such as the brown bear and hyena.

Touted as the first-ever document of its kind in Iran, the comprehensive plan includes short- and long-term goals and outlines measures to monitor the animal’s population, raise awareness, and encourage public participation in conservation schemes, among others.
“Preliminary studies to prepare the plan began about three years ago,” Ali Teymouri, director of the Conservation, Hunting and Fishing Office at the DOE said in a press statement on Tuesday, ILNA reported.

A national committee comprising the project head and members of the Strategic Council will oversee the plan’s execution, he said, without disclosing any names.

Wildlife Insurance

Over the past eight years, 166 leopards have perished across the country. Major causes of death include road accidents, hunting for hide, and poisoning by shepherds trying to protect their livestock.

In August 2015, the DOE announced plans to “insure” the species in an effort to deter shepherds from killing the animal to keep their livestock and village safe, but finding a company willing to insure the species proved to be a tough task.

However, the wait may be over. Teymouri said the DOE, the National Environment Fund and an unnamed insurance company “will sign a deal next week” to insure the species and compensate victims for damages caused by the animal.

“The insurance will cover human fatalities and livestock loss, in addition to damages inflicted by the Persian leopard to farms,” Teymouri said, adding that the department is negotiating similar deals for other animals.

Pointing to the positive impact of increasing fines for hunting the animal, the official said that “only one or two leopards were killed by poachers” since May, when the fine was increased from 50 million rials ($1,400) to 800 million rials ($23,000).

A study spanning four years found that 71% of all Persian leopard fatalities were attributed to illegal hunting or poisoning.

Reduced prey population and shrinkage of the natural habitat are other factors threatening the graceful, but imperiled, big cats.
The Persian leopard is listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List.

By Financial Tribune

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