In nature conservation we have to take both success stories and tragedies in our stride. Sadly, at the end of December 2017 an adult Persian leopard was found dead at high elevation in Sarigol National Park, northeastern Iran. The leopard, an adult male that had been known to our crew since autumn 2015 when it was identified during camera trapping surveys. He was estimated to be more than 10 years old when was found. The body was found intact some days after death, with no sign of injuries or bullet wounds. A post-mortem examination at the headquarters of the North Khorasan Department of Environments established with reasonable certainty that the cause of death was old age, with the leopard’s ability to survive severely reduced by the very poor state of its teeth.
In 2015, we recognized 10 adult leopards across an area as small as 70 km2, one of the highest leopard densities known from the Middle East. Nonetheless, it is very unlikely that an animal should be found dead even within such a small montane area. During the past five years, this is the second leopard mortality that has been detected in the area, the previous one being a young male which was reportedly killed by herders.