In the past 40 days alone, seven rare Persian leopards have been killed or injured in Iran by poachers, food poisoning and cars, according to Iranian media reports.
The leopard most recently harmed was found in a forested area in the north of Iran with one front leg cut off by a foot-snare trap. After transporting the large male to a veterinary center, radiography showed he was suffering from more than 50 small pellets and bullets scattered throughout its body and could not move due to spiral cord damage. His prognosis is dire.
The Persian leopard, one of the mascots of the Sochi Olympics and the largest member of the cat family in Iran, is considered an endangered subspecies on the IUCN Red List.
An unreliable estimate of the leopard population in Iran is 550-850 individuals. Little scientific data about them has been collected. It is known that their population has drastically declined across their range, largely due to the decimation of ungulates, their main food source. Food scarcity increases the potential for conflict between humans and leopards as they travel more widely for food.
Between 2007 and 2011, 71 Persian leopards were killed by illegal hunting or poisoned. Twelve of the cats have been killed in the last 11 months alone, according to Iranian media. It is believed the actual number killed is much higher than reported.