18 March 2012

Arabian Leopards in Dhofar!!

I had the pleasure earlier this month of meeting Phil Dickinson, who works for Earthwatch. Although I had heard of the organisation I was surprised (and delighted!) to learn that they run a programme of research in Oman, including right here in Dhofar!  It turns out that Phil was here working with Dhofari colleagues to run Field Skills training for rangers from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA).  The rangers manage the Jebel Samhan protected area which is home to the critically endangered Arabian leopard.  The current status of the Arabian leopards and their environment in Jebel Samhan is, I learned, being researched jointly by staff from MECA, the Office for Conservation of the Environment (OCE), the National Field Research Centre for Environmental Conservation, and Earthwatch

Although I was vaguely aware that Arabian leopards existed in small numbers in Oman, I am ashamed to admit that my knowledge did not extend beyond that.  It was fascinating therefore to learn that this work is taking place locally and to know that there are several dedicated organisations and individuals working to conserve this magnificent species.  Seeing some of the project's photographs of these rare leopards (captured on camera traps) was a privilege. They are incredibly beautiful and something Oman should be very proud of.  Leopards are, however, increasingly under threat and it is therefore crucial that all necessary efforts are made to conserve Oman's population of these creatures.

It is my understanding that two local experts are at the core of the leopard work - Hadi al Hikmani and Khaled al Hikmani. I hope to organise a talk by them in the near future to allow us to learn more about their work and have them share their expertise.  If you would be interested in attending a presentation on the Arabian leopards of Jebel Samhan please leave a comment or email me and I will keep you updated!

Photo reproduced from http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com (photographer: Andrew Spalton)

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