For the first time in Oman and in Dhofar, scientists, several institutions, several ministries and local people gather in Mariott Salalah Resort in Mirbat for a three days ‘International Arabian Leopard Conference’ by ‘The National Field Research Center for Environmental Conservation, under the auspices of Khalid bin Hilal al Busaidi, Minister of the Diwan of the Royal Court. ’ On the 2nd of September, on the first day during the presentation of the aims of the conference, Drs. Urs Breitenmoser, co-chair of IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist group asked the audience “Why are we here.”
His answer was very simple. “According to IUCN Red List, the Arabian leopard is on the edge of extinction. The goal of the conference is to set up a plan for conservation and protection of the endangered animal.” The fact, that in Oman, the leopard is found across the mountains of Dhofar, explains why the conference takes place in the south of Oman. That the stakeholders stay in Mirbat has to do with the fact that Jebel Samhan, one of the main strongholds of the Arabian leopard lies in the backyard of this rich historical coastal town.
During the first day, 13 presentations, each 15 min. long, raises a lot of questions, but also entails a lot of answers. What I learned from the first day is that this conference has to try to find a balance between the conservation and protection of the leopard and the local human activities and tourism and urban development.
Everyone, meaning: leopard, local people, and of course the biodiversity of nature in general has to benefit. Perhaps the example of the community-based conservation of Persian leopard in Golestan National Park in Iran, can inspire the audience the next two days coming up. Through workshops, hopefully a ‘National Action Plan’ for the benefit of the endangered animal, the biodiversity in nature and the local people will be developed.