Persian Leopard Photographed in Kazakhstan for the First Time

Persian Leopard / Nordpersischer Leopard by Michelle Bender. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Here’s a cool article from Tanya Rosen: a National Geographic Explorer and wild cat conservationist who works in Central Asia. It seems that Persian leopards, also called Caucasian leopards, have been showing up in areas where they’re not “supposed” to be.

Persian leopards are a subspecies of leopard (Panthera pardus) that live in countries like Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkmenistan (World Land Trust).

Despite the fact that Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan share a border, Rosen explains that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) previously believed that, “Kazakhstan is well outside the current or historical range of Persian leopards.”

In ordinary language, that means that Persian leopards don’t live in Kazakhstan – nor have they in historical times. That assessment may not be accurate.

On September 29, 2018, scientist Aktan Muhashov was checking a camera trap that had been placed in Kazakhstan’s Ustyurt Nature Reserve for a study on vultures. As he was flipping through the photos, an animal appeared that Muhashov wasn’t expecting: a Persian leopard.

This was the first time a live Persian leopard had been photographed in Kazakhstan. However, the cat’s presence wasn’t a surprise to everyone.

Some of the scenery in Kazakhstan, although this photo was not taken in Ustyurt Reserve. Kazakhstan Desert by Mariusz Kluzniak. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Rosen writes that local people in Kazakhstan previously had leopard-related “lore,” suggesting they were familiar with the species. At least three leopards have also been killed in Kazakhstan in the past two decades due to human-wildlife conflict; and, shortly before the aforementioned leopard was photographed last September, officials responded to a report in Ustyurt Reserve of an animal that looked like a leopard attacking livestock.

Nevertheless, this leopard’s photograph sent shockwaves throughout Kazakhstan. School children named the cat Tay Sheri, “The Spirit of the Mountains,” while Ustyurt Reserve and an environmental activist named Adilbek Kosibekov launched separate art competitions inspired by the leopard.

Most importantly, Tay Sheri’s photo might help to protect Ustyurt from gas mining.

Ustyurt has long been considered a potential UNESCO World Heritage site, but its listing has been delayed by the prospect of gas mining in a critical section of the reserve. The excitement generated by Tay Sheri’s presence means that there’s now a greater chance that this destructive form of development will not take place.

Tay Sheri’s story shows that just by turning up in key locations, animals like leopards can unknowingly alter the course of human politics. A more contentious example of this involves jaguars (Panthera onca) in Arizona, who – without knowing it – are caught up in struggles pertaining to open-pit mining and Trump’s stupid border wall.

As always, the original article contains more information. Please click below to read it!

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