Book and journal publications

Sanei A., Mousavi M., Kiabi B.H., Masoud M.R., Gord Mardi E., Mohamadi H., Shakiba M., Baran Zehi A., Teimouri M., Raeesi T. 2016. Status assessment of the Persian leopard in Iran. Cat News Special Issue 10: 43-50.

Abstract: We conducted a national survey to evaluate the recent status of the Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor in Iran. Leopard presence records were investigated in 204 areas under the auspices of the Department of Environment DoE, i.e. in National Parks NPs, Wildlife Reserves WRs and Protected Areas PAs and elsewhere outside these areas within the leopard’s putative range from 2007 to 2011. Questionnaires were sent to DoE provincial and regional offices and we conducted interviews with hunters, local shepherds and villagers to investigate illegal killing and poisoning of leopards. Subsequently, records were classified into two reliability categories of confirmed C1 or probable presence C2. We plotted the most recent Persian leopard distribution map in Iran indicating the reliability of the records. Results show that leopard distribution is interrupted in a vast area covering about 6 provinces in the north-west of Iran, where formerly northern and southern leopard distributions were considerably connected. We therefore hypothesise that leopard distribution in Iran is splitting into a northern and a southern range, with the risk of fragmentation. Almost 70% of the leopard mortalities during the study period resulted from illegal killing and poisoning. While leopard occurrence is strongly related to wild goat Capra aegagrus densities, wild goat numbers are correlated with protection level, size and number of years under protection for each protected area. We recommend a number of research and conservation priorities such as field surveys to assess corridors connecting leopard main habitats particularly in the provinces located in the north-west of Iran to improve the current and planned conservation programmes. Further transboundary cooperation among the neighbouring countries is essential to improve the Persian leopard conservation in the region.


Arezoo  Sanei (2007) Analysis of leopard (Panthera pardus) status in Iran (No.1). Tehran: Sepehr Publication Center isbn:978-964-6123-74-8   

Notes:The book was awarded at Iranian Youth Research and Innovation Competition, Book Authorship Section (2010). Analysis of leopard status in Iran (No. 1) presents findings of a country-wide research conducted by the author in Iran from 2002-2006. Results presented here signify the first research of its kind to illustrate status of the Persian leopard in its current distribution range in the country. The book is originally in the Persian language and under international copy right rules. The book is consisted of 14 chapters mainly cover following subjects: (i) Leopard distribution range in various provinces of Iran in both protected and un-protected areas in Iran, (ii) leopard habitat types and co-existed species, (iii) biometry, (vi) morphology, (v) main threats to the Persian leopard in Iran on the basis of its current distribution in the country. The book is a part of the author’s thesis submitted to Azad University of Tehran in 2004 and then published as the first edition in 2005. However, data collection was continued from 2004-2006, thus, the content was updated and published in the current (2nd) edition, 2007. Researches (i.e. 2002-2006) and publications of the first and second editions were financially supported by Behshahr Kar Co., Tehran. The Persian leopard status described here could be used as the basis to conduct further studies in its current range in the country.


Arezoo  Sanei, Mohamed  Zakaria (2011) Impacts of human disturbances on habitat use bythe Malayan leopard in a fragmented secondary forest, Malaysia.  Asia Life Sciences Supplement 7: 57-72   

Abstract: Very little is known about the leopard (Panthera pardus) in Malaysian tropical rainforests, particularly in a human-dominated and highly fragmented habitat after incidence of rapid deforestations. The objective of this study was to understand the impacts of disturbance factors on the leopard habitat use in a highly fragmented forest within Malaysia’s capital agglomeration. We collected detection/non-detection data for leopards, four anthropogenic factors namely construction, deforestation, plantation and settlements and one feral species(i.e. stray dog) from February 2008 for duration of 13 months. We used Jacob’s preference Index to examine the effect of human disturbance factors on leopard presence/absence in various parts of the study area. Spearman Correlation Coefficient was used to examine the possible correlation between presence of stray dogs and leopards. Jacob’s preference index demonstrates leopards prefer forested areas rather than more open environments in the vicinity.Furthermore, most ignorance of leopards was shown to the construction activities have taken place in the study area. In contrast, northern parts of the forest with less human factors are mostly preferred by the species. Pearson’s correlation coefficient showed a highly negative significant correlation between the presence of leopards and stray dogs in the transect lines.Since leopards are the top predators of this fragmented forest, this study could be used to promote practices of sustainable conservation and environmentally friendly forest management.


Arezoo  Sanei,  Mohamed  Zakaria,  Ebil  Yusof,  Mohamad  Roslan (2011) Estimation of leopard population size in a secondary forest within Malaysia’s capital agglomeration using unsupervised classification of pugmarks Tropical Ecology 52: 2. 209-217

Abstract: The objective of this study was to estimate the population size of common leopard (Panthera pardus) in Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve in Selangor, Malaysia. Long term survival of leopard population in this area is threatened due to small size of the forest, isolation and presence of various disturbances in the habitat. However, no estimates are available on the number of leopard in the study area. We used unsupervised classification of pugmarks that allows clustering of the data sets based on their inherent similarities. Study was conducted during February to November 2008. Linear measurements of front and hind tracks and strides (n = 124) were classified using hierarchical cluster and discriminant analysis which indicated that at least four individuals of leopard were present in the study area of 1,411 ha. Despite the small size of the forest, the area is still rich in both fauna and flora. The leopard being the predator, has an important role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem. Therefore, the population size of the leopard could be used as indicator of sustainable conservation and management of the species in the area.


Arezoo  Sanei,  Mohamed  Zakaria (2011) Occupancy status of Malayan leopard prey species in a fragmented forest in Selangor, Malaysia. Asia Life Sciences Supplement 7: 41-55

Abstract: A study concerning prey availability for Malayan leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri Pocock 1930) in a highly fragmented secondary forest, namely: Ayer Hitam Forest Reservelocated in Selangor, Malaysia was conducted from February 2008 to March 2009. The mainobjectives of this study were to investigate (i) a priori unknown leopard potential preyspecies existed in the study area and (ii) occupancy status of a priori known leopard potentialpreys with regard to the presence of anthropogenic factors in the habitat. Findings suggestedthat leopards in Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve feed mainly on Eurasian wild pig (Sus scrofa)supplemented by macaque and lesser mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus). Occupancy anddetection probabilities for wild boar, macaque and mouse deer were relatively high indicatingthat there is no evidence of lack of prey sufficiency in the study area. Moreover, there is a highprobability of encountering prey species for each leopard individual throughout the forest.We identified four active anthropogenic disturbance factors in the study area (i.e. plantation,construction, deforestation and presence of indigenous and local settlements). Constructionactivities had the most profound effect on occupancy status of wild boar and macaque whilemouse deer was mostly affected by deforestation activities. This study indicated that althoughthere is little concern regarding prey sufficiency, lack of space and presence of activeanthropogenic disturbances are the most critical factors in determining leopard populationviability in the study area.


Mohamed  Zakaria,  Arezoo  Sanei (2011) Conservation and management prospects of the Persian and Malayan leopards.  Asia Life Sciences Supplment 7: 1-5    

Preface: Being the largest predator of wide distribution in the mountains of Iran, the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor Pocock 1927) is acknowledged as the "King of the Mountains" by local settlers. After the extinction of the Persian lion (Panthera leo) and the Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris), the Persian leopard is the last member of genus Panthera which still remains in its natural habitats in Iran. About five decades ago, living in most rural communities of Iran was based on the traditional methods of cultivation and animal husbandry, while urban growth and development were witnessing a slow progress. As a result, in many of the natural habitats in Iran, flocks of wild sheep and wild goat could be observed to occur widely in the dale hills and high mountains, specifically in the long ranges of Zagros and Alborz Mountains. Likewise, signs of the leopard presence could be found frequently in these areas.


Arezoo  Sanei,  Mohamed  Zakaria,  Shirin  Hermidas (2011) Prey composition in the Persian leopard distribution range in Iran.  Asia Life Sciences Supplement 7: 19-30 

Abstract: A study was conducted in 67 protected areas throughout the Islamic Republic of Iranfrom 2002 to 2006 to investigate diversity and composition of the Persian leopard potentialprey species over its distribution range in the country. The study was performed concurrentlywith leopard distribution studies using direct observations, rapid survey techniques andcollection of secondary data. Nine species, namely: wild goat (Capra aegagrus), wild sheep (Ovis orientalis), Persian gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), chinkara or jebeer gazelle (Gazellabennettii), wild pig (Sus scrofa), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), red deer (Cervus elaphus),Indian crested porcupine (Hystrix indica) and Persian wild ass (Equus onager) were studiedas the leopard potential prey species. Although attack of leopard on the Persian wild ass isrecorded, we excluded the species from the results due to its limited distribution range.Results indicated that wild goat and wild sheep followed by wild pig and Indian crestedporcupine are the most widely distributed potential prey species in the leopard distributionrange in Iran. Moreover, leopard presence is highly correlated with presence of the wild goatand wild sheep. Nevertheless, opportunistic predation on smaller species such as hare androdents is likely as leopard has a diverse diet. Eleven sites are proposed as the most considerablesites with regard to the diversity of prey communities. It is suggested that a leopard nationalconservation plan is essential to protect the leopard particularly as an umbrella species in itscurrent proposed distribution range. However, the priorities in allocation of resources couldbe given to the sites have been identified through this study to have the most diverse preycommunities (i.e. Golestan, Jahan Nama, Parvar, Touran, Khosh Yeilagh, Sorkheh Hesar,Kavir, Sarigol and Salook).  


Arezoo  Sanei,  Mohamed  Zakaria (2011) Survival of the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) in Iran: Primary threats and human-leopard conflicts  Asia Life Sciences Supplement 7: 31-39

The frequencies of primary threats in previously identified Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor Pocock 1927) distribution range in Iran were estimated in this study conducted from 2002 to 2006 using interviews with local settlements and shepherds, hunters and rangers of the Iran Department of Environment (DoE). Habitat assessments were done to investigate prey availability, presence of human disturbance factors and presence of livestock as well as habitat suitability. Secondary data on human/livestock-leopard conflicts were obtained from records covering two years (2002-2003). The study showed that habitat disturbances followed by illegal hunting and excess of livestock are the main potential threats to the populations of Persian leopard in Iran. Most of the complaints made by local settlements in 2002-2003 were primarily wolf (Canis lupus) infestation while Persian leopard was in the mere third and second level of complaints in 2002-2003, respectively. This study recommends that local awareness programs must be conducted particularly in the conflict regions reported in this study. These information-education programs could contribute to the decrease in leopard hunting and prey poaching hence, would substantially help the local settlements in successful management of their livestock industry.


Arezoo  Sanei,  Mohamed  Zakaria (2011) Distribution pattern of the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) in Iran  Asia Life Sciences Supplement 7: 7-18      

Abstract: This study is a new attempt to identify the latest distribution pattern of the Persianleopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor Pocock 1927) in its entire range in Iran. Furthermore, thepaper aimed to analyse the climatic factors in the current range of the leopard in the country.The study was performed in 138 sites (56 protected areas, 34 non-protected areas and48 meteorology stations) throughout the country for a duration of four years starting in 2002using rapid survey techniques and collection of secondary data. A total of 74 protected andnon-protected areas are reported here as the leopard detection sites in the country. Althoughleopards have a wide distribution in Iran, results indicate that 69% of them are found in thenorthern part where a large tract of forests is regarded as one of the most important habitatsfor leopards in the country. In general, the leopards are mostly found in habitats with 0 to 20days per year of ice cover and 58% of its identified range in the country have 3,100-3,600sunny hours per annum. Leopards inhabit a wide range of temperature, i.e. from -23.10 to+49.40 ºC however, they are more often found in areas with temperature of 13 to 18 ºC. Themajority (66%) of leopard distribution areas receive more than 200 mm of rain per year.Findings of this research would help the researchers in conducting further regional studies inthe leopard distribution range described in this paper. It is also recommended that occupancymodeling on a regional scale should be conducted where leopards are present.


Arezoo Sanei, Mohamed Zakaria (2010) Possible first jungle cat record from Malaysia Cat News 53: 13-14.

Abstract: Here we report a probable first evidence of jungle cat Felis chaus from Malaysia. A specimen thought to be a jungle cat was frequently detected in a highly fragmented secondary forest from February 2008 until April 2009, while a study on the status of the leopard Panthera pardus was undertaken.


A Sanei, M Mousavi, K Rabiee, M S Khosravi, L Julaee, F Gudarzi, jaafari B, M Chalani (2016)  Distribution, characteristics and conservation of the jungle cat in Iran. Cat News Special Issue 10:  51-55.

Abstract: The jungle cat Felis chaus is among the least known felids worldwide. A national survey was conducted to assess and document the status and distribution of this species in Iran. A total of 280 jungle cat presence records have been collected, including road kills, injured animals, hunted and trapped specimens and observations and reports made by experts. Observations reported by local communities living inside or close to jungle cat habitats and by inexperienced people were also recorded. We then classified the data into three categories (i.e. C1: confirmed presence, C2: probable presence, C3: unconfirmed presence) on the basis of confirmability of records. Findings indicated that the jungle cat is distributed at least in 23 out of the 31 provinces of Iran. A total of 69 records came from protected areas, i.e. National Parks NPs, Wildlife Reserves WRs and Protected Areas PAs, covering an area of 38,343 km², which is 23.5% of the total area of all protected areas under the auspices of the Department of Environment DoE of Iran. The species was found at altitudes ranging from 45 m to 4,178 m and in a variety of habitat types from plains and agriculture lands to the mountains. However, it was mostly recorded in shrub lands and woodlands. We suppose that the diet of jungle cat in Iran mainly consists of fish, birds (waterfowl, poultry and galliform birds) and rodents. More detailed studies and status assessment of the species on a local scale, particularly in the areas affected by land use changes and severe dry condition are essential. Several conservation measures are recommended to improve the status of the species in Iran.


Conference papers

A  Sanei,  M  Mousavi,  M  Mousivand,  M  Zakaria (2012) Assessment of the Persian leopard mortality rate in Iran In: Proceedings of UMT 11th International Annual Symposium on Sustainability Science and Management Edited by:B. Arifin, S. N. Afifah Jaafar, S. M. Zain S. Hasan, A. Hassan, H. M. E. Armanto, Ch. Tse Seng, W. Z. Wan Sembok, Sh. Md Sheriff, S. Noordin Mokhtar, F. I. Abdul Wahab, H. Mohd Yusof, A. Mat. Arshad. Universiti Malaysia Terengganu:Malaysia.   

Abstract:  Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) mortalities were recorded in 31 provinces of Iran while a national survey was undertaken to assess current status of the leopard in the country. Questionnaires were frequently sent out to the provincial offices of the Department of Environment in each province from 2007 to 2011. Interviews with hunters and local knowledgeable people were done to investigate hunted and poisoned leopard individuals. We recorded a total of 71 leopard mortalities across the country while 70% of them (n=50) were as a result of intentional poisoning and hunting of the specimens. Furthermore, 13 cases of road kills were recorded which most of them were taken place in Golestan province, Northern Iran. Mortalities as a result of human factors, direct shooting and poisoning of the species had a high rate of 9 individuals in Lorestan province in the recent years. In the meantime, habitat destructions and lack of prey sufficiency in various parts of leopard distribution range in the country resulted in increasing rate of human-leopard conflicts in the recent times. Enforcement of compensation programs to recoup for actual losses inflicted by leopards, informing local villagers and shepherds about this program and increasing amount of the fines for illegal hunting of leopards and their preys (i.e. wild goat Capra aegagrus and wild sheep Ovis orientalis) may effectively reduce revenge killings. Since majority of the Persian leopard population in the Middle East inhabits in Iran which also supports species viability in the neighbouring countries, implementing research-based and prioritized conservation programs to protect the species in its current range in the country is essential.

A Sanei, E Gordmardi, B Jafari, H Absalan, M Zakaria (2013)  Persian leopard distribution in relation to human pressures and prey resources in North Khorasan province, Iran. In: International forestry graduate students’ conference  Edited by:F. S. Lai, R. Halis, S.N. Abu Bakar, S. Ramachandran, C. L. Puan.   58-61 University Putra Malaysia: Malaysia.

Arezoo  Sanei, Mohamed  Zakaria (2009) Primary threats to Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Proceedings of the 8th International annual symposium on sustainability science and management.  In:8th International annual symposium on sustainability science and management 491-494 Diterbitkan Oleh; Terengganu, Malaysia: UMT.

Arezoo  Sanei,  Mohamed  Zakaria,  Mohamad  Roslan (2008) Population status of leopard (Panthera pardus) in Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve, Puchong, Selangor, Malaysia  In: National Seminar on Biodiversity Conservation UPM, Malaysia.

Mohamed  Zakaria,  Arezoo  Sanei (2010) Occupancy modelling of the leopard (Panthera pardus) as a function of human and natural factors in Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve, Selangor, University Putra Malaysia.  PRPI [Scientific Poster Exhibition]

Notes: The poster was awarded at PRPI Poster Exhibition.


Technical reports

A Sanei (2016)  A pilot program for participatory Persian leopard monitoring and conservation in Dashtestan County, Bushehr province (annual report) Bushehr DoE General Office, Bushehr. (In Persian).

Arezoo Sanei and Mohamad Reza Masoud (2014) A report to the Persian leopard status and conservation in the Iranian part of the Caucasus eco-region (report no. ALSS/2014/Cau/7-1). Prepared for the Caucasus leopard expert’s workshop, Georgia. 

Arezoo Sanei (2013) Formation of an active network between technical experts and local activists in leopard habitats for establishing priorities for participatory conservation of Persian leopard. Report submitted to SGP/GEF/UNDP.

Arezoo Sanei and Mohamad Reza Masoud (2013) Mapping the Persian leopard habitat connectivity in Caucasus ecoregion – East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. Report submitted to the East Azerbaijan provincial DoE office. 82 pp. (In Persian).

Arezoo  Sanei, Behrouz  Jafari, Eskandar  Gordmardi, Hossein  Absalan, Farid  Fasihi (2012) Leopard distribution in North-Eastern Iran in relation to escalating human pressures and prey resources. Asian Leopard Specialist Society, Tehran, Iran. Report No.: ALSS/PTES/7115. 

Arezoo  Sanei (2010) Countrywide Persian leopard studies progress report (Phase 1: 2002-2006). Asian Leopard Specialist Society, Tehran, Rep. No.: 07/07/02/110/BEH.  

Arezoo  Sanei, Mohamed  Zakaria (2009) Malaysian leopard project progress report. Research Management Center, University Putra Malaysia.