Suspects sought in Leopard deaths

Financial Tribune- Law-enforcement officials in Mazandaran Province are searching for poachers responsible for the death of two rare Persian Leopards, which were killed and skinned in Behshahr County.

The provincial Department of Environment website said in a report on its website that the leopards—a female and her cub—were drinking water from Lab Sang Spring in Shahidabad Forest when they were shot dead. They were skinned at the scene and their remains were burned.

Mazandaran is one of the main habitats of the Persian leopard in Iran, home to around 100 leopards.

To discourage shepherds and villagers from killing the animal to protect their livestock and properties, the DOE, in cooperation with Ma Insurance Company, insured the Persian leopard in 2016 and compensated those who had suffered losses last year.

Killing a Persian leopard incurs a fine of 800 million rials ($21,000) and repeat offenders may also face jail time.

Studies have shown that some 71% of all Persian leopard fatalities are attributed to illegal hunting or poisoning by shepherds trying to protect their livestock. Reduced prey population and shrinkage of their natural habitat are other factors threatening the graceful, but imperiled, big cats.

Efforts to protect the Persian leopard will not only help the species, but other wildlife as well, making the leopard a so-called umbrella species.

Due to its wide distribution, protecting the endangered species will also help conserve the populations of other animals that share the same habitat.