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Modeling the distribution and movement intensity of Arabian Leopard Panthera pardus nimr in the Arabian Peninsula
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  • M. Zafarul Islam,
  • Alexander Gavashelishvili,
  • Luka Kokiashvili,
  • Ahmed al Boug,
  • Abdullah as Shehri,
  • A. Townsend Peterson,
  • Daniel Jiménez García
M. Zafarul Islam
Prince Saud al Faisal Wildlife Research Center
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Alexander Gavashelishvili
ILIAUNI
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Luka Kokiashvili
Ilia State University
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Ahmed al Boug
Prince Saud al Faisal Wildlife Research Center
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Abdullah as Shehri
Prince Saud al Faisal Wildlife Research Center
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A. Townsend Peterson
University of Kansas
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Daniel Jiménez García
Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla
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Abstract

Aim: Our research attempts 1) to link the distribution and movement rate of critically endangered Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) to environmental variables varying in space and time, and 2) thus to identify environmental constraints and priority areas for the recovery of Arabian leopard. Location: The Arabian Peninsula. Methods: Generalized linear and additive models were used to fit leopard presence/absence locations to environmental variables. Movement rates between the modeled polygons of leopard presence were inferred and mapped using the isolation-by-resistance model, where probability values of the species distribution model were treated as those of conductance. Results: Currently Arabian leopard prefers to live and move in terrain that has high NDVI and is difficult for humans to reach. Main conclusions: Our results suggest that 1) Arabian leopard accumulated genetic and phenotypic differences from its conspecifics at a series of glacial maxima during the last glacial period in the Yemeni refugium, from where it expanded elsewhere in the Holocene warming following the expansion of suitable landscape types, (2) humans expanded too, eventually restricting the source populations of Arabian leopard to an area intersecting eastern Yemen and western Oman today, (3) Most of the survey effort to detect and ensure the survival of the leopard in the peninsula has taken place outside the polygons identified by our models as core areas for the species. Our models would serve as a tool for the management of the species in conservation efforts such as an Arabian Leopard and associated species conservation in western Arabia project. Keywords: Arabian leopard, Panthera pardus nimr, Arabian Peninsula, Distribution, Movement intensity, Source population, Corridors, the Yemeni refugium.