Today most people are more likely to associate Yemen with warfare and bizarre terrorism plots rather than wildlife. But Yemen is home to a surprising diversity of animals, including a population of the world’s smallest leopard: The Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr).
Native to the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian leopard is today extremely rare — less than 200 animals are thought to survive in the wild. Despite the cat’s precarious position, there is relatively little local enthusiasm to protect a species that is widely seen as a threat to livestock.
Nevertheless one man in Yemen is trying to boost the value of leopard in the eyes of local people. David Stanton, an American teacher living in Yemen, had devoted his life to saving the Arabian leopard across its range.
Now a new film tells Stanton’s story. Written and directed by Guardian journalist and correspondent Kevin Rushby and long-time film producer Richard Johns, Saving the Leopard follows Stanton as he travels with a group of young Yemenis to Oman to train them in leopard conservation.
Saving the Leopard is debuting February 2, 2013 at the 3rd Annual New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival. Ahead of its premiere, Rushby answered some questions from Mongabay.com about the film and his career, which has included television production and presenting, travel writing and reporting, and authorship of several books. Rushby is an Arabic speaker who has covered the Middle East for 20 years, including stints living and working in Yemen and Sudan.