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African Leopards at Risk of Extinction

By Rose C
Dec 02, 2016 05:53 AM EST
An African Safari
A leopard looks out from a tree at the Mashatu game reserve on July 25, 2010 in Mapungubwe, Botswana.
(Photo : Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Suffering a population decline of 30 percent in the past 25 years, African leopards may qualify the "endangered status" under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday. 

Last July, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International (HSI), International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Fund for Animals filed a legal petition to extend the full protections of the Endangered Species Act to African leopards (Panthera pardus pardus)

HIS director of the wildlife department Teresa M. Telecky, Ph.D, said in a statement, "African leopard numbers are plummeting and as the largest leopard trophy importer in the world, the United States has taken a critical step toward ensuring that our consumption does not threaten the survival of this species."  

In Asia and Africa, leopards are at a huge risk of extinction due to the current poaching and trophy hunting. Studies show that poorly managed trophy hunting was a key driver of leopard population decrease. Early this year, South Africa has banned trophy hunting in their lands due to the alert from its CITES Scientific Authority that the number of leopards in the country was unknown and that trophy hunting risks the survival of the species.

"This is a crucial step forward in saving these imperiled animals," said Jeff Flocken, IFAW's North America regional director. "We thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for recognizing that enhanced protections under U.S. law may be warranted."

Taken all together, the leopard meets the A2cd criterion for vulnerable based on loss of habitat and prey and exploitation. These causes of the suspected reduction are not well understood, have not ceased, and are likely to continue, and future decline is anticipated unless conservation efforts are taken.

In a report from the Center for Biological Diversity, Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity explained that "leopards in Asia and northern Africa have long been recognized as endangered."

"And the United States must extend this same level of protection to all leopards to reverse their disturbing decline," Uhlemann added.

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