Reviving the Arabian leopard: Harnessing historical data to map habitat and pave the way for reintroduction

Luciano Atzeni, Amiyaal Ilany, Eli Geffen, Samuel A. Cushman, Zaneta Kaszta, David W. Macdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) has experienced dramatic range and population contractions over the last century. Conservation efforts for this felid focused on captive breeding and identification of suitable conditions for reintroductions. With this study, we unravelled historical collaring and direct observations data to understand the spatial use of the last leopards recorded in the region of Israel and the West Bank (IWB). Through datasets of leopard occurrence, we characterised suitable habitats, assessed niche overlap with the Arabian leopard's main prey, the Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana), and evaluated their distributions with respect to currently protected habitats. We estimated home-ranges employing area-corrected density kernel methods and investigated suitable conditions through multiple scales habitat modelling. Average home ranges for the population were 73.24 ± 47.91 km2 and 77.46 ± 54.94 km2, depending on the time lag adopted. Ecological response to predictors highlighted reliance by both predator and prey on the same habitat characteristics, suggesting they occupied essentially identical niches. These characteristics were intermediately rugged topographic conditions and high indices of vegetation in scarcely populated desert environments, mostly encompassed within protected areas. The distribution of leopard and ibex overlapped substantially according to several metrics. Notably, more than half of potential habitat for both species is encompassed by protected areas and military zones. Given the coincidence in their ecological requirements, and highly congruent distributions, an important step towards future reintroduction of Arabian leopards will include gaining a better understanding of ibex populations, alongside attention to the practicality of enforcing habitat protection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110440
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s)


The leopard study led by the late Giora Ilany benefited from the help of many field assistants, rangers, and students, with special thanks to Golan Abend, Yotam Timna, Amit Lotan, Eyal Bartov, Alon Reichman, Gali Ashkenazi, Hovav Weksler, Yossi Aud, Dror Hawlena, and David Meninger. The Israeli Nature & Parks Authority provided logistic support and permits, and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel provided logistic support. We also thank Tchia Ilany, who digitized the observation notebooks.

FundersFunder number
Israeli Nature & Parks Authority
Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel


    • Arabian leopard
    • Home-range analysis
    • Judean Desert
    • Multiple-scale species distribution model
    • Nubian ibex
    • Reintroduction


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