The last leopards

A study has found that Cambodia’s leopards are heading for extinction.

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The Indochinese leopard is one of nine leopard subspecies © Panthera / WildCRU / WWF Cambodia / FA

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Leopards in Cambodia are on the brink of extinction after a population decline of 72 per cent over the past five years.

The study, carried out in the Eastern Plains of Cambodia, revealed that the concentration of leopards was at an all-time low, with just one individual per 100 km2 (the lowest ever reported in Asia).

“This population represents the last glimmer of hope for leopards in all of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam – a subspecies on the verge of blinking out,” says Panthera’s Dr Jan Kamler. “No longer can we, as an international community, overlook conservation of this unique wild cat.”

Increased poaching for the illegal wildlife trade and a reduction in prey availability from snaring for the bushmeat trade are two of the biggest factors leading to the leopards’ decline. Habitat loss and conflict with people are significant issues, too.

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Bateng are a species of wild cattle found in southeast Asia © Panthera / WildCRU / WWF Cambodia / FA

In addition to the reduced population, scientists found that the primary prey of the regions leopards had changed to banteng, wild cattle that weigh five times the leopard’s mass.

As a result of the study, Panthera and WildCRU are working with national collaborators to increase effective law enforcement and monitoring of the region, to develop protected areas and to increase fines for poachers.

Read the full paper in Royal Society Open Science.

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