Southern Africa has the healthiest leopard populations of the cat’s entire African and Asian range.
Evidence of a breeding leopard population is still uncertain in the Elba region of southeastern Egypt. Continued camera-trapping efforts have failed to capture the presence of leopard in the Sinai since 1995. The presence of leopards was confirmed in the Ahaggar Mountains of Algeria from the genetic testing of one scat sample in 2005 but no presence has been confirmed since then.
Leopards have been confirmed in Niger along the southwestern border with Benin and Burkina Faso but previous reports in Air and Tenere National Reserves are unconfirmed. Leopards are generally restricted to a few protected areas from Senegal in the west to Nigeria in the east. Leopards have been reported in the south of Senegal including Parc National de Niokolo-Koba. In Sierra Leone, there are small remnant populations near Outamba Kilimi National Park and Gola National Forest as well as the eastern boundary with Guinea/ Liberia. Leopard populations in Liberia have been recorded in Lofa-Mano National Park in the west and Sapo National Park in the east. In Ghana, Leopards are found along the boundary with Côte d’Ivoire and Mole National Park in the north and west. In Benin, leopard are found along the northern boundary. Leopards are nearly absent from Nigeria.
In Cameroon, leopards are found in the northern and southern portions of the country. In Gabon, leopards are found throughout the country with small absent pockets in the southeast and southwest. In the Central African Republic (CAR) leopards are found in the southwest, central and eastern portions of the country. Leopards are found throughout South Sudan with the exception of the Sudd wetland.
In East Africa, there are possible remnant populations in Djibouti, Eritrea, and North Sudan. Leopards are nearly absent from Somalia. Leopards are found throughout southern Ethiopia, parts of Uganda and the west, central, and southern portions of Kenya. In Tanzania, leopards are found throughout the Serengeti-Ngorogoro Crater system and to the south and west.
Southern Africa likely has the healthiest leopard populations of their entire range. It is generally thought that Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique have declining but healthy leopard populations outside of human-dominated areas.
In Namibia, leopards inhabit most of the country with the exception of the highly populated northern region, the arid southeast farmlands, and the desert coast. Botswana has a continuous leopard population in the North and West. In South Africa, leopards are found along the boundaries with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique with dense populations located in the Limpopo region. Leopards are also located in the Cape provinces of South Africa.
The main stronghold for the Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) is the continuous tract of the Dhofar area in southwestern Oman and the Hawf area in northeastern Yemen. There are also small, isolated populations in Saudi Arabia. In 2006, leopard populations were estimated at eight individuals in Israel’s Judean Desert and Negev Highlands respectively, however, they have not been confirmed since.
Recent surveys found that leopards have a wide distribution in Iran, mostly in the region of the two mountain chains consisting of Alborz running northwest to northeast and Zagros from northwest to the south. Their presence is also recorded in Golestan National Park, Iran which is located in the northeastern part of Iran near the border with Turkmenistan. A few recently confirmed records from Iraq and Turkey are restricted to the mountainous areas of Kurdistan, where leopards are known to be scarce. There are numerous camera-trap records dated 2013-2014 confirming the presence of a small population in the Zangezur Ridge shared by Armenia and Azerbaijan. Two individuals are recorded in Talysh Mountains of southeastern Azerbaijan. There is recent camera trapping evidence from Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Azerbaijan. Recently, a leopard was videotrapped in North Ossetia, Georgia. There are no confirmed recent records in Dagestan although leopards definitely lived there in low numbers in the 1980s and the last confirmed photograph was taken in 2009.
There is some indication of the leopard’s presence in the Babatag and Kugitang mountains of Uzbekistan. A confirmed record of leopard was obtained in Afghanistan in the Bamyan province in 2011 in a camera trap image.
In Pakistan, leopards also inhabits broken hilly or mountainous country throughout Waziristan, Baluchistan and Sindh Kohistan in association with acacia scrub forest. A recent study using DNA from scats found leopard presence in northeast Pakistan from the Ayubia National Park. Leopards occur widely in the forests of Bhutan and Nepal. Leopards are widespread across India and Sri Lanka occurring inside and outside protected areas.
The North China Leopard is restricted to small, isolated protected areas in Central China in the Ningxia, northern Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, northern Henan, western Sichuan, southern Qinghai and eastern Tibet regions. Leopards of southeast Asia have been confirmed in protected areas in Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia, and southern China but are likely absent from Lao PDR and Viet Nam. Some recent information indicates that they are still present in most forested regions of the island of Java, Indonesia but in very low numbers. In the Russian Far East, leopards occur in a large area of about 7,000 km² along the eastern slopes of the East Manchurian Mountains on the border with China but their numbers are likely to be very low.
• Image | © Michael Jansen, Some Rights Reserved (CC BY-ND 2.0)
• Sources | (Athreya, et al., 2013; Avgan, et al., 2012; Erfanian, Mikarimi, Mahini, & Rezaei, 2013; Hamidi, et al., 2014; Harihar, Pandav, & Goyal, 2009; Hebblewhite, Miquelle, Murzin, Aramilev, & Pikunov, 2011; Khorozyan, Stanton, Mohammed, Al-Ra’il, & Pittet, 2014; LaGuardia, et al., 2015; Moheb & Bradfield, 2014; Perez, Geffen, & Mokady, 2006; Roberts, 1997; Sanei & Zakaria, 2011; Sarukhanova, 2014; Shehzad, et al., 2014; Spalton & al Hikmani, 2014; Stein, et al., 2016; Voskanyan, 2014; Yarovenko, 2010; Zaffar-ul-Islam, Boug, As-Sheheri, & Al Jaid, 2014)