There are only 25 Persian leopards left in Iraq, conservationist Hana Raza estimates. Conservationists in Iraqi Kurdistan are calling for stronger measures to protect the animals. The leopards are threatened by a dramatic loss of habitat, hunting and the impact of war.
In the world, there are only 1,000 Persian leopards left, with most of them living in Iran and Afghanistan; only a few are left in Iraq.
Nabaz Farooq Ali and his brother Bahez hope to capture footage of the last Persian leopards in their country. They’ve tied cameras around trees on Bamo mountain in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. “Our grandparents saw some even during the day,” Nabaz said. Since then, they have all disappeared, he added.
Iraqi Kurdistan lost almost half of its forest between 1999 and 2018, causing a drastic reduction in the leopard’s habitat, according to data from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Razzaq al-Khaylani, a spokesperson for KRG, said a lack of public funds for conservation makes it difficult to protect nature and animals.
So for now, in Bamo mountain, Nabaz and Bahez are trying to protect the leopards’ habitat on their own, engaging their local community.
“Places like Bamo mountain, if effectively protected, could become a breeding site”, Soran Ahmed, a biologist at the University of Sulaimaniya who monitors the leopard, said. “We have to save them, they are part of our culture and identity.”
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