Friday, February 20, 2009

Countries urged to collaborate to save Arabian leopard

Oman-Yemen tie-up urged to save leopards

02/19/2009 06:13 PM - By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief

Muscat: An international expert says the rare Arabian leopards could be moving between Oman and Yemen in the south of the Sultanate.

It is critical for leopards that some kind of collaboration between Oman and Yemen is arrived at in surveying the Arabian leopard, Tessa McGregor, an independent wildlife biologist, told Gulf News on Sunday at the end of the 28-day Biosphere Expeditions Arabian Leopard Research Project in Oman.

The expedition is monitored and facilitated by the Office for Conservation of Environment of the Diwan of Royal Court.

She also raised concern at a new highway being laid in the south of Oman. The new highway cuts right across the area where strong evidence of leopard life is found. This year Biosphere Expeditions continued its initiative in Dhofar in the vicinity of Wadi Uyun and Wadi Mudday. "We have found definite evidence of leopards' existence in the area," she said.

She also added that in November and December people in the area have heard leopards and the expedition team also found pug marks. In my opinion the pug marks that we found during our expedition now were not more than three months old, she pointed out.

So, the team has found evidence that the leopards are still living in the south of Oman but are yet to see them. Leopard is a very difficult animal to see and now we plan to install 20 trap cameras to capture the rare big cat, she said.

McGregor was at pains to admit that wildlife was getting extinct by day in the Arab region. "Wildlife is disappearing from the Arabian region faster than anywhere [else] in the world," said the renowned scientist. About the expedition, she said more than seeing the leopard, it was important to find out about its movements, numbers and conservation status in the study area and also to develop strategies that ensure its survival for future generations.

"Yes, we are very happy with the final outcome and are confident that we have made a positive contribution towards Arabian leopard conservation in Oman," she said. McGregor also praised the support of the local population in their efforts to track down the leopards. "Without the local support and guides Khalid Hikmani and Hadi Hikmani the expedition would not have been possible."

"Oman is committed to conserving its bio-diversity and also has ratified international conventions such as the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity)," said Khalifa Bin Hamed Al Jahwari, Senior Specialist for Wildlife Conservation of the Environment at the Diwan of Royal Court.


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