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Leopards (Panthera pardus) have the largest range of all the big cats, and occupy a wide variety of habitats, from the Congo rainforest to the deserts of the Middle East.

Despite their remarkable adaptability, leopard populations are in steep decline across Africa and Asia.

IUCN Red List Status
Least concern Near threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically endangered
Status on CITES Appendices
  Leopards are extinct in six countries/regions: Hong Kong SAR of China, Kuwait, Libya, Singapore, Syrian Arab Republic, and Tunisia
Leopards have vanished from at least 40% of their historic range in Africa and over 50% of their historic range in Asia.​   Leopard presence in six additional countries is very uncertain: Iraq, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Lebanon, Lesotho, and Mauritania


The leopard’s range spans roughly 75 countries across much of Africa and Eurasia.

Likely the most persecuted big cat, leopards are listed as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, though they will almost certainly be uplisted to “Vulnerable” in 2015.

The leopard is classified as “Endangered” in Central Asia and Sri Lanka and “Critically Endangered” in the Middle East, Russia, and on the Indonesian island of Java.

Main threats

Rampant bushmeat poaching depletes prey populations and poses a direct threat to leopards; they are often caught and killed in wire snares and traps set for other species.

As leopards lose their habitat to human development, they are increasingly killed in retaliation for the real and perceived threat they pose to livestock. Leopards frequently cling to survival in human dominated landscapes, increasing the likelihood of human-leopard conflict.

Poorly managed trophy hunting in certain regions of Africa is contributing to the decline in leopard populations.

Leopards are often killed illegally for their skins and other body parts, which are widely sought after across their range for ceremonial regalia.

Conservation efforts

The leopard has been protected under Appendix I of  the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1 July 1975 which means commercial international trade in leopard, its parts and products is prohibited.

Since the majority of leopard range is outside of protected areas, conflict mitigation strategies such as livestock husbandry, compensation/ insurance programmes and public awareness have all been used to assist farmers and increasing tolerance for living with leopards. Namibia and Botswana have promoted wildlife conservation through the devolution of wildlife management and the establishment of benefit sharing initiatives between photographic tour operators, professional hunters and communities through Conservancies and Wildlife Management Areas. These initiatives were modeled after previous efforts such as CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe.

In North and West Africa, the Middle East and large parts of Asia, leopards are restricted to protected areas where they are afforded refuge if poaching is not significant. However, many of these protected areas are not large enough to maintain genetically viable populations and will likely require intensive management.

Conservation organizations have worked with range states to rigorously track leopard population trends in order to identify populations in need of conservation attention, and to inform and evaluate effective management of the species.