The Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica syn. Panthera pardus saxicolor), also called Caucasian leopard, is the largest leopard subspecies, and is native to northern Iran, as well as eastern Turkey, the Caucasus mountains, southern Turkmenistan, and parts of western Afghanistan. It is endangered throughout its range with an estimated 500 to 700 leopards believed to be found in Iran.
In the past 10 months it has been reported that eleven leopards have been killed and another one was paralyzed in Iran. Prior to this recent trend, two of four members of Iranian big cat family became extinct including Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) and Asiatic lion ((Panthera leo persica). Persian Leopard is on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) endangered list.
In Iran, primary threats include: a) habitat disturbances caused by constructing new roads and factories, or presence of military and training of troops in border habitat areas; b) illegal hunting and/or poaching; c) habitat loss due to deforestation, fire, agricultural expansion, overgrazing, and infrastructure development; and d) depletion of their prey. Other factors are road accidents, or (the leopards) being killed by peasants and guardian dogs.
The leopards’ chances for survival outside protected areas are very slim. Intensive dry conditions in wide areas of leopard habitats in recent years are affecting leopard main prey species such as wild goat and wild sheep.Recent reports and evaluations of conditions by the environmentalists on the Persian leopard mortality rate in Iran have revealed that 70% of leopard mortalities from 2007-2011 were as a result of illegal hunting or poisoning and 18% were because of road accidents. Even though, the anti-poaching laws and fines in Iran include a fine of $1600 for killing a leopard, it cannot compete with the global market prices (and demand) for leopard skin which is over $10,000 (each). Therefore, more restrictive regulations and monitoring are needed in Iran, in order to stop this growing threat.
In addition, Asiatic cheetah is another member of big cat family in Iran which is near extinction and is currently on the endangered list.