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Title: Ecology and conservation of Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor in northeastern Iran
Author: Farhadinia, Mohammad
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 5579
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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The Persian leopard is the largest cat in west Asia, and is considered to be endangered - poaching and habitat degradation are thought to be responsible. The rugged mountains and high altitudes it favours present considerable challenges for scientists, and it is consequently one of the least known subspecies. I have addressed this through exploring the subspecies' fundamental ecology across three national parks in northeastern Iran. I used satellite telemetry, camera trapping, genetic analysis and questionnaire surveys. The perceived role of leopards in livestock depredation was negligible compared to that of wolves. This was associated with relative tolerance of leopards compared with wolves; but the economic loss associated with predator damage did appear to influence peoples' attitudes. I also estimated a mean home range of 103.4 ± SE 51.8 km2 for resident males which is larger than what has been observed in other studies on Asian leopard. Five out of six of leopards spent 17.9% of their time outside the national park, among human communities. The kill rate was quantified as 3.7 ± SE 0.5 medium-sized prey/month per leopard, which is higher than reported by previous studies. Surprisingly, considering the subspecies' reported low density based on previous studies, I found relatively high population densities, varying between 4.01 ± SE 1.98 and 8.02 ± SE 2.67 individuals/100 km2. The number of adult leopards detected in Tandoureh (30 individuals) was larger than identified during comparable surveys at any other site globally. Persian leopards exhibited moderately high genetic diversity at six microsatellites (AN = 7.45, HO = 0.69, HE =0.75) and low haplotype diversity (Hd = 0.198) across three closely related haplotypes in NADH-5 gene. There was a weak evidence of spatial population partitioning. My research findings highlight the key role of mountainous ecosystems as refugia in supporting a high density of apex predators. Although land sharing is an inevitable solution for coexistence across Asian crowded montane landscapes, sparing mountains with improved law enforcement is encouraged for large cat conservation in Asian mountains. Finally, my thesis raises new hope for leopard viability as well as highlights the potential capacity of the Kopet Dag Ecoregion as a significant conservation unit for leopards.
Supervisor: Johnson, Paul J. ; Hunter, Luke T. B. ; Macdonald, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available