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Alert! Southeast Asia's Indochinese Leopards Nearing Brink of Extinction

Sep 04, 2016 11:35 AM EDT
Indochinese leopard
Another big cat is teetering on the brink of extinction: Southeast Asia's Indochinese leopard, with their numbers around 2,500 at best.
(Photo : Robert Elsmore/Flickr via Creative Commons)

A new study revealed that Indochinese leopards in Southeast Asia are dwindling in number, with less than 1,000 individuals, adding another big cat in the brink of extinction.

In a study published in Biological Conservation, the report showed that the genetically distinct subspecies now only live in 6.2 percent of its historical range, with two major strongholds in peninsular Malaysia and the Northern Tenasserim Forest Complex in the border of Thailand and Cambodia.

These two areas, including the eastern plains in the Cambodian region, are identified as priority areas for their conservation.

The leopards, which are less studied than other big cats like tigers and lions, are completely gone in Singapore. Their numbers are also down in Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, China and Cambodia.

"Most people assume that leopards are still common everywhere, whereas everybody probably knows by now that tigers and lions have become very rare in the wild," said study co-author Jan Kamler, as per The Guardian.

The study said rising poaching incidents for the illegal wildlife trade are likely to be blamed for its nearing extinction. However, habitat destruction, deforestation, diseases and decline in prey are also factors that come into play.

A recent survey revealed that Indochinese leopards (Panthera pardus delacouri) have lost 93 percent of their historic territory.

Unfortunately, the bad news also extends to leopards worldwide. A previous study showed that leopards around the world have lost 75 percent of their range.

The IUCN Red List has placed the species from threatened to vulnerable.

Asia has lost most of its leopards, with six regions losing more than 95 percent of habitat where the big cats used to roam, with a clear link between the region's economic development and the species' decline.

Leopards are known to be adaptable species, showing a capability to adapt to environments changed by human activity. However, if illegal wildlife trade will not be curbed, their numbers are seen to continue plummeting.

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