There are conflicting results on the leopard’s taxonomy, but as of 2017, the IUCN SSC Cat Classifaction Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group recognizes 8 subspecies.
The taxonomy for the leopard is currently under review by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Species Survivial Commission (SSC) Cat Classification Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group.
Following Carl Linnaeus’ first description, 27 leopard subspecies were proposed by naturalists between 1794 and 1956.
In 2005, eight subspecies were recognized based mainly on a genetic mitochondrial molecular study: P. p. delacouri (Indochinese), P. p. fusca (Indian), P. p. japonensis (Northern Chinese), P. p. kotiya (Sri Lankan), P. p. melas (Javan), P. p. nimr (Arabian), P. p. orientalis (Amur), and P. p. pardus (African).
There was discretion as to whether or not P. p. saxicolor (Southwest Asian) should be recognized as a ninth genetically distinct subspecies. The recognition of Panthera pardus melas, the Javan leopard, and Panthera pardus nimr, the Arabian leopard, was based on very small sample sizes and is considered tentative.
Based on morphological analysis, Panthera pardus tulliana, the Anatolian, Caucasian, or Persian leopard was recognized in western Turkey and Panthera pardus sindica was recognized in Pakistan, and possibly also parts of Afghanistan and Iran. Panthera pardus ciscaucasica was considered as the senior synonym for Panthera pardus saxicolor.
There are conflicting results from different studies suggesting that more comprehensive sampling is required from throughout the leopard’s range, taking advantage of museum specimens of known provenance. Until such a study is carried out, the IUCN SSC Cat Classification Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group proposes the following conservative arrangement of subspecies: P. p. delacouri (Indochinese), P. p. fusca (Indian), P. p. kotiya (Sri Lankan), P. p. melas (Javan), P. p. nimr (Arabian), P. p. orientalis (Amur), P. p. pardus (African), and P. p. tulliana (Southwest Asian).
• Image | © Cloudtail the Snow Leopard, Some Rights Reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
• Sources | (Hunt, 2011; Kitchener, et al., 2017; Miththapala, Seidensticker, & O’Brien, 1996; Stein, et al., 2016; Uphyrkina, et al., 2001; The Wikimedia Foundation, 2019a, 2019b)