Indochinese leopard

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Indochinese leopard
An Indochinese leopard at Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Pantherinae
Genus: Panthera
P. p. delacouri
Trinomial name
Panthera pardus delacouri
Pocock, 1930

The Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) is a leopard subspecies native to mainland Southeast Asia and southern China. In Indochina, leopards are rare outside protected areas and threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation as well as poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. In 2016, the population was previously thought to comprise 973–2,503 mature individuals, with only 409–1,051 breeding adults. The historical range had decreased by more than 90%.[2] However, as of 2019, it is estimated that there are 77-766 mature Indochinese leopards and that their numbers are decreasing.[1]


Panthera pardus delacouri was described in 1930 by Reginald Innes Pocock based on a leopard skin from Annam.[3]


Skull of an Indochinese leopard at Museum Wiesbaden

Pocock described an Indochinese leopard skin as almost rusty-red in ground colour but paler at the sides. It had small rosettes that were mostly 3.8 cm × 3.8 cm (1.5 in × 1.5 in) in diameter and so closely set that it looked dark. The fur was short with less than 2.5 cm (0.98 in) long hair on the back. He commented to have seen only black leopards from Johor and other areas in the Malay Peninsula exhibited in menageries. He therefore assumed that the proportion of black leopards increases farther south.[3]

Records from camera trapping studies conducted at 22 locations in southern Thailand and peninsular Malaysia between 1996 and 2009 show that Indochinese leopards recorded north of the Kra Isthmus are predominantly spotted. South of the Isthmus, only melanistic leopards were recorded.[4] Melanism is quite common in dense tropical forest habitat, and black leopards are thought to have a selective advantage for ambush.[5]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Indochinese leopard is distributed in Southeast Asia, where today small populations remain only in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and southern China. In Laos, Vietnam and Singapore it is suspected to have been extirpated.[1] Peninsular Malaysia and the Northern Tenasserim Forest Complex on the Thailand-Myanmar border are at present considered strongholds, and eastern Cambodia a priority site.[2]

In Myanmar's Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, the leopard population declined so drastically between the 1940s and 1980s, that by 2000 it was estimated as being close to locally extinct.[6] In 2015, leopards were recorded for the first time by camera traps in the hill forests of Karen State.[7]

In Thailand, the Indochinese leopard is present in the Western Forest Complex, Kaeng Krachan-Kui Buri and Khlong Saeng-Khao Sok protected area complexes. But since the turn of the 21st century, it has not been recorded any more in the northern and south-central forest complexes of the country.[2] In Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary on the Thai-Malaysian border, only two leopards walked past camera traps deployed between October 2004 and October 2007.[8]

In Malaysia, the leopard is present in Belum-Temengor, Taman Negara and Endau-Rompin National Parks.[2] In April 2010, a spotted leopard was seen in a camera trap in Taman Negara National Park, where previously only black leopards were thought to occur.[4] It has also been recorded in secondary forests in Selangor and Johor states.[9][10]

In Laos, 25 different leopards walked past camera traps set up over an area of 500 km2 (190 sq mi) in the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Biodiversity Conservation Area between April 2003 and June 2004.[11] Leopards are reported to occur in Nam Kan National Protected Area as well.[12]

In Cambodia, leopards were recorded in deciduous dipterocarp forest in Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary between December 2008 and August 2009, and in Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary in 2009 and 2014.[13][14][15] A 2021 study found no individuals, indicating the Cambodian population was also extirpated.[16]

In southern China, camera trap surveys were conducted in 11 nature reserves between 2002 and 2009, but leopards were only recorded in Changqing National Nature Reserve in the Qinling Mountains.[17]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

Since the mid-1980s, leopard-oriented field research was carried out in three protected areas in Thailand:

  • Between 1985 and 1986, leopard scats were collected in an evergreen dipterocarp mountain forest in Chiang Mai Province of northwestern Thailand. Prey species found in scats comprised foremost Indian muntjac, followed by wild boar, long-tailed goral, dusky leaf monkey, Malayan porcupine, and Indian hog deer only in the hot season from February to April.[18]
  • In 1996, three leopards were fitted with radio collars in the south–central part of Kaeng Krachan National Park, a hilly terrain with seasonal evergreen forest. The study revealed home ranges of two male leopards of 14.6–18.0 km2 (5.6–6.9 sq mi), and of a female of 8.8 km2 (3.4 sq mi). They all preferred habitat where prey species accumulated and offered potential hunting opportunities, namely at altitudes of 500–600 m (1,600–2,000 ft), river and valley corridors, and the main road, prior to higher elevations and forested terrain. Both male leopards slightly extended their home range during the wet season of June to October.[19] Sambar deer, red muntjac, Malayan porcupine and gaur are the most abundant potential prey species in this protected area.[20]
  • Between 1994 and 1999, ten leopards were fitted with radio collars in the northwestern part of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary and followed over 9–41 months. The analysis of tracking data revealed mean annual home ranges of adult males of 35.2–64.6 km2 (13.6–24.9 sq mi). Six adult females had the largest in Asia recorded home ranges of 17.8–34.2 km2 (6.9–13.2 sq mi), which they all extended in the dry season from November to April. All leopards preferred dry evergreen and mixed deciduous forest with flat slope near water courses.[21]

Wild boar, macaque and lesser mouse deer were identified as the main potential prey species for the leopard in a highly fragmented secondary forest in Malaysia's Selangor area.[22]


There are few contiguous areas left where leopards have a chance of long-term survival. They are primarily threatened by habitat destruction following large–scale deforestation, and prey depletion through illegal hunting.[19][21][23]

An increasingly growing threat is hunting for the illegal wildlife trade, which is showing its potential to do maximum harm in minimal time:[24] leopards are increasingly being used as substitutes for tiger parts in traditional Chinese medicine, with the price of leopard parts rising as tiger parts become scarce.[2]

Habitat destruction[edit]

Human traffic inside protected areas negatively affects leopard movements and activity. They show less diurnal activity in areas more heavily used by people.[25] In villages located in Laos' protected areas, local people consume about 28.2 kg (62 lb) meat of deer and wild boar annually per household. This offtake amounts to 2,840 kg (6,260 lb) ungulates per 100 km2 (39 sq mi), which is equivalent to the meat required to sustain several leopards per 100 km2 (39 sq mi).[11][26]

In a highly fragmented tropical rain forest within Malaysia's capital agglomeration of Klang Valley leopard density has been estimated at 28.35 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi), which is one of the highest leopard densities reported. As a result of rapid shrinking of the forests, individuals may have been pushed into the remaining forest in this area, so that their population is unexpectedly high. Leopards were mostly affected by construction activities conducted inside the forest.[9]

Illegal wildlife trade[edit]

Substantial domestic skin markets exist in Myanmar, in Malaysia for traditional medicines, and in China for skins and bones, the latter particularly as a substitute for the tiger in traditional Asian medicines and tonics. In China, the use of stockpiles of leopard bone is still permitted by the government by medicinal manufacturers, despite the domestic trade ban.[27]

In Myanmar, 215 body parts of at least 177 leopards were observed in four markets surveyed between 1991 and 2006. Among the body parts, a leopard penis and testes were openly traded, along with other parts of freshly killed animals. Three of the surveyed markets are situated on international borders with China and Thailand, and attract international buyers, although leopards are completely protected under Myanmar's national legislation. Effective implementation and enforcement of CITES is considered inadequate.[28]

In early 2018, the carcass of a black leopard was discovered in Thailand's Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, along with other animals.[29][30] They were in the possession of a businessman who presided over the construction company Italian-Thai Development.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rostro-García, S.; Kamler, J.F.; Clements, G.R.; Lynam, A.J. & Naing, H. (2019). "Panthera pardus ssp. delacouri". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T124159083A163986056. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Rostro-García, S.; Kamler, J. F.; Ash, E.; Clements, G. R.; Gibson, L.; Lynam, A. J.; McEwin, R.; Naing, H.; Paglia, S. (2016). "Endangered leopards: Range collapse of the Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) in Southeast Asia". Biological Conservation. 201: 293–300. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.07.001. hdl:10722/232870.
  3. ^ a b Pocock, R. I. (1930). "The Panthers and Ounces of Asia". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 34 (2): 307–336.
  4. ^ a b Kawanishi, K.; Sunquist, M.E.; Eizirik, E.; Lynam, A.J.; Ngoprasert, D.; Shahruddin, W.N.W.; Rayan, D.M.; Sharma, D.S.K. & Steinmetz, R. (2010). "Near fixation of melanism in panthers of the Malay Peninsula". Journal of Zoology. 282 (3): 201–206. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2010.00731.x.
  5. ^ Majerus, M. E. N. (1998). Melanism: evolution in action. New York: Oxford University Press.
  6. ^ Aung, M.; Swe, K. K.; Oo, T.; Moe, K. K.; Leimgruber, P.; Allendorf, T.; Duncan, C.; Wemmer, C. (2004). "The environmental history of Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected area in Myanmar (Burma)". Journal of Environmental Management. 72 (4): 205–216. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2004.04.013. PMID 15294353.
  7. ^ Saw Sha Bwe Moo; Froese, G.Z.L. & Gray, T. N.E. (2017). "First structured camera-trap surveys in Karen State, Myanmar, reveal high diversity of globally threatened mammals". Oryx. 52 (3): 537−543. doi:10.1017/S0030605316001113.
  8. ^ Kitamura, S.; Thong-Aree, S.; Madsri, S. & Pooswad, P. (2010). "Mammal diversity and conservation in a small isolated forest of southern Thailand" (PDF). The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 58 (1): 145–156. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  9. ^ a b Sanei, A.; Zakaria, M.; Yusof, E. & Roslan, M. (2011). "Estimation of leopard population size in a secondary forest within Malaysia's capital agglomeration using unsupervised classification of pugmarks". Tropical Ecology. 52: 209–217.
  10. ^ Theng, M. & Norhayati, A. (2019). "Panthera pardus at Panti Forest Reserve, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia". Southeast Asia Vertebrate Records: 31–32.
  11. ^ a b Johnson, A.; Vongkhamheng, C.; Hedemark, M. & Saithongdam, T. (2006). "Effects of human–carnivore conflict on tiger (Panthera tigris) and prey populations in Lao PDR" (PDF). Animal Conservation. 9 (4): 421–430. doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2006.00049.x. S2CID 73637721.
  12. ^ Robichaud, W.; Insua-Cao; Sisomphane, P. C. & Chounnavanh, S. (2010). "Appendix 4". A scoping mission to Nam Kan National Protected Area, Lao PDR. Fauna & Flora International. pp. 33−42.
  13. ^ Gray, T. N. & Phan, C. (2011). "Habitat preferences and activity patterns of the larger mammal community in Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia". The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 59 (2): 311−318.
  14. ^ Gray, T. N. E. (2013). "Activity patterns and home ranges of Indochinese leopard Panthera pardus delacouri in the Eastern Plains Landscape, Cambodia" (PDF). Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society. 59 (1): 39−47.
  15. ^ Rostro-García, S.; Kamler, J.F.; Crouthers, R.; Sopheak, K.; Prum, S.; In, V.; Pin, C.; Caragiulo, A. & Macdonald, D.W. (2018). "An adaptable but threatened big cat: density, diet and prey selection of the Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) in eastern Cambodia". Royal Society Open Science. 5 (2): 171187. Bibcode:2018RSOS....571187R. doi:10.1098/rsos.171187. PMC 5830728. PMID 29515839.
  16. ^ Rostro-García, S.; Kamler, J.F.; Sollmann, R.; Balme, G.; Augustine, B.C.; Kéry, M.; Crouthers, R.; Gray, T.N.E.; Groenenberg, M.; Prum, S.; Macdonald, D.W. (July 2023). "Population dynamics of the last leopard population of eastern Indochina in the context of improved law enforcement". Biological Conservation. 283: 110080. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2023.110080.
  17. ^ Li, S.; Wang, D.; Lu, Z. & Mc Shea, W.J. (2010). "Cats living with pandas: The status of wild felids within giant panda range, China". Cat News. 52: 20–23.
  18. ^ Lovari, S.; Mori, E. (2018). "Seasonal food habits of the endangered Indochinese leopard Panthera pardus delacouri in a protected area of North West Thailand". Folia Zoologica. 66 (4): 242–247. doi:10.25225/fozo.v66.i4.a5.2017. S2CID 90655767.
  19. ^ a b Grassman, L. (1999). "Ecology and behavior of the Indochinese leopard in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand" (PDF). Natural History Bulletin Siam Society. 47: 77–93. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
  20. ^ Ngoprasert, D.; Lynam, A.J.; Gale, G.A. (2017). "Effects of temporary closure of a national park on leopard movement and behaviour in tropical Asia". Mammalian Biology. 82: 65−73. doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2016.11.004.
  21. ^ a b Simcharoen, S.; Barlow, A.C.D.; Simcharoen, A.; Smith, J.L.D. (2008). "Home range size and daytime habitat selection of leopards in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand". Biological Conservation. 141 (9): 2242–2250. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2008.06.015.
  22. ^ Sanei, A.; Zakaria, M. (2011). "Occupancy status of Malayan leopard prey species in a fragmented forest in Selangor, Malaysia". Asia Life Sciences Supplement. 7: 41–55.
  23. ^ Sanei, A. & Zakaria, M. (2011). "Impacts of human disturbances on habitat use by the Malayan leopard in a fragmented secondary forest, Malaysia". Asia Life Sciences. Supplement (7): 57–72.
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  25. ^ Ngoprasert, D.; Lynam, A.J. & Gale, G. A. (2007). "Human disturbance affects habitat use and behaviour of Asiatic leopard Panthera pardus in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand". Oryx. 41 (3): 343–351. doi:10.1017/S0030605307001102.
  26. ^ ICEM (2003). Lao PDR National Report on Protected Areas and Development. Review of Protected Areas and Development in the Lower Mekong River Region (PDF) (Report). Indooroopilly, Queensland, Australia.
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  28. ^ Shepherd, C. R. & Nijman, V. (2008). The wild cat trade in Myanmar (PDF) (Report). Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia: TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
  29. ^ Cochrane, L. (2018). "Tycoon who ate Thai black leopard plans to build highway through 'pristine' habitat in Myanmar". ABC Online. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
  30. ^ Pairomahakij, R.S. (2017). "'Panther' poaching the tip of iceberg". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
  31. ^ "ITD tycoon in crosshairs after arrest". Bangkok Post. 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

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