School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Hadi Al Hikmani

Population genetics of the Arabian leopard in Oman

Supervisor(s): Dr Jim Groombridge (Main), Dr Simon Tollington and Dr Simon Black

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The Arabian leopard Panthera pardus nimr is a subspecies of the leopard that is endemic to the Arabian Peninsula. Phylogenetic studies consider it an ancient distinctive subspecies. It used to occur throughout the mountainous region of Arabia from Jordan in the north-west to Oman in the east. However, rapid development in the region, which caused both habitat loss and fragmentation of the Arabian leopard range, has forced the species to the brink of extinction. The IUCN has classified it as critically endangered with an estimated population of less than 200. In Oman, it is confined to small parts of its former range where an estimated 44-58 adult individuals remain in the Dhofar Mountains. However, nothing is known about the genetic status of this tiny relict population.

Camera trap image of the Arabian leopard in Dhofar mountains, Oman

Camera trap image of the Arabian leopard in Dhofar mountains, Oman.

The aim of this study is to use non- invasive DNA extracted from fecal samples to provide much-needed information on the genetic status of the Dhofar population. Samples from individuals within the Dhofar Mountains between 2010 and 2015 are being analysed as part of this project to determine the number and sex of genetically distinct leopards, levels of neutral genetic diversity, and extent of gene flow and inbreeding within the Dhofar population. These datasets will be used to enhance future conservation initiatives to save this critically-endangered subspecies from extinction.

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Al Hikmani, H. & Al Hikmani, K. (2014). First photographic record of twin Arabian leopards in the wild. Cat News  60: 15.

Spalton, A. & Al Hikmani H. (2014). The Arabian leopards of Oman. Stacey International, UK.

Al Hikmani, H. & Al Hikmani, K. (2012). Arabian leopard in lowland region on the south face of Jebel Samhan, Oman. Cat News 57: 20-21.

Spalton, J.A., Al Hikmani, H., Willis, D. & Bait Said, A.S. (2006). Critically endangered Arabian leopards Panthera pardus nimr persist in the Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve, Oman. Oryx 40(3): 287-294.

Spalton, J.A. & Al Hikmani, H. (2006). The leopard in the Arabian Peninsula: distribution and subspecies Status. Cat News Special Issue 1: 4-8.

Spalton, J.A., Al Hikmani, H., Jahdhami, M.H., Ibrahim, A.A.A., Bait Said, A.S. & Willis, D. (2006). Status of the Arabian leopard Panthera pardus nimr in the Sultanate of Oman. Cat News Special Issue 1: 26-32.

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Setting a camera trap

Setting a camera trap.

This project is funded by the Office for Conservation of the Environment, Diwan of Royal Court, Sultanate of Oman.

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Last Updated: 07/11/2016