Biblical Archaeology Review 7:1, January/February 1981

Animals of the Bible: Living Links to Antiquity

By Bill Clark

There were skeptics who refused to believe that the Sinai leopard (Panthera pardus jarvisi) still existed in Israel. They laughed at Giora Ilani and accused him of being a dreamer.

Ilani, chief zoologist with the Israeli Nature Reserves Authority (NRA), took the criticism in good spirit. He felt sure the leopard still prowled the cliffs above the Dead Sea. He had carefully read all the subtle, telltale signs. He had pieced all the clues together and was convinced that it was only a matter of time until the great spotted cat would show itself in Israel.

Ilani’s critics were silenced in the fall of 1974. A freshly killed Nubian ibex (Capra ibex nubiana) had been found in the steep cliffs above the oasis at Ein Gedi; it was obvious the nimble mountain goat had been a recent victim of a powerful and savage cat. Ilani was sure that the predator would eventually return to its kill, so he built a small blind nearby, climbed in, set up his camera, and waited.

Late in the night, Ilani heard some movement among the darkened rocks near the dead ibex. Moments later, he heard gnawing and chewing at the carcass. Ilani tripped the shutter of his pre-focused camera—electronic strobes stabbed the night with lightning-like flashes—and the surprised expression of a startled Sinai leopard was captured on film.

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