Muscat: A recent scientific study conducted by researchers from the Sultanate of Oman and the United Kingdom on the critically endangered Arabian leopard say that the release of captive bred animals carefully selected for their genes can make a significant contribution to the successful recovery of the dwindling wild population and avert the prospect of extinction.

The study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Evolutionary Applications, said introducing these genes through genetic rescue could contribute to restoring genetic diversity in wild populations that suffer from in-breeding.

The study used various Arabian leopard samples from Oman, Yemen, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The study provided an opportunity to evaluate the genetic diversity of the Arabian leopard in the mountains of Dhofar over the past 50 years.

The Sultanate of Oman has set up Jabal Samhan Natural Reserve and the Khor Kharfut Natural Reserve in Jabal al Qamar to protect Arabian leopard.

The study by researchers of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of East Anglia (UEA), University College London (UCL), Nottingham-Trent University (NTU) and the Diwan of Royal Court in Oman, surveyed the remote Dhofar mountain range of southern Oman to determine how many of Arabia’s last big cat survive.

The team estimated there could be only 51 wild leopards remaining in Oman, distributed between three isolated, genetically impoverished but distinct subpopulations.

Omani researcher Dr Hadi al Hikmani, Arabian leopard Conservation Lead at the Royal Commission for AlUla in Saudi Arabia, described the motivation for this study: "The Arabian leopard is one of the world’s rarest carnivores and is extraordinarily elusive. The only way to monitor these leopards in the wild is to deploy camera traps high up across the mountain ranges where the leopards live, and to collect the scats they leave behind on the mountain passes, for DNA analysis."

Professor Cock van Oosterhout, of the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA, said: "The problem is that all individuals are somehow related to each other. They are the descendants of the few ancestors that managed to survive a major population crash. Hence, it becomes virtually impossible to stop inbreeding, and this exposes ‘bad’ mutations, what we call genetic load. In turn, this can increase the mortality rate, causing further population collapse."

2022 © All right reserved for Oman Establishment for Press, Publication and Advertising (OEPPA) Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (