Leopards once roamed through Africa and Asia and even up into parts of Europe. Now their range is diminished and many of the subspecies are either endangered or critically so.
The Persian Leopard (also referred to as the Anatolian leopard and the Cascina Leopard) Iranian Plateau and surrounding areas encompassing Turkey, the Caucasus (Armenia Azerbaijan and other parts of southern Russia), Iran, Israel, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan.
Today it is thought that the population only consists of 1000 adults, though their population is highly fragmented. One of its strongholds is the Iraqi Kurdistan forests, unfortunately as much as half of these forests has been lost to illegal deforestation.
Unfortunately if the Persian Leopard cannot hang on here there is little hope elsewhere. Numbers have roughly halved (as habitat has similarly halved).
For the majority of people, a leopard is a leopard. Sure there are quite a range of subspecies, but one generally looks rather like the other. Indeed the only significant difference people often notice is one that has not justification – that of the melanistic leopard (or black panther)
In order to disturb wild leopards as little as possible, the study took DNA samples from museum held leopard specimens all over the world.
Will Burrard Lucas, a British wildlife photographer, has taken the wildlife jackpot shot and managed to photograph a wild black leopard in Africa, in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.
Her took the photo in Kenya, on a camera trap he had set up. Black leopards (as with jaguars, servals, tigers and other cats) are normal leopards which have an extremely rare recessive gene. Given that the gene in question is recessive it is rare that a leopard would have both parents carrying the recessive gene and so ends up black.
In specific parts of the world, black leopards are far less rare – on the Malaysian peninsula as much as half of the leopards are black. However, these leopards live in dark jungles which means there is more dark shadows for the leopards top hide in. This means that there is a higher advantage for black leopards, making them more likely to have many young.
While leopards are active mostly at night, and therefore black leopards can be easier camouflaged, for savannah leopards they need to be able to hide during the day. Although they mostly lie up a tree during the day, a black leopard is more visible.