James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

Camera trap footage from the Dhofar Mountains

I’m quite proud of our work in Oman, we went really not knowing very much, but it turned out wonderfully in the end. We worked (and are still working) on a lot of projects, looking at the birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, plants and more. But by far the thing that captured our imagination most, and the imaginations of everyone reading our blogs from back home, was the ghost that lives in those mountains, the Arabian Leopard.

Of course I hoped for success, but as the expedition got closer I kept reining in my expectations. There are around 200 in the whole of Arabia, what were the chances that we would find one – I focused on the other projects.

Then, the night we arrived at base camp, one of the team found a paw print in the sand. Over the days and weeks that followed we found more evidence, scrapes, prints, but nothing for certain. We trekked up into the dry river valleys, working our way around house sized boulders laying camera trap after camera trap searching for evidence of this elusive cat.

Success came when we least expected it. In mid February, whilst taking a botanical team from Muscat up into the Wadi, we took the opportunity on passing a camera trap to give a brief demonstration. Flicking through the images, there was an inquisitive Honey Badger, a few Hyrax, but then there it was, a long striped tail, utterly unmistakable (and terribly misjudged camera trap placement on my part as we missed the body!).

I jumped for joy quite literally, it was wonderful to have so many members of the team all there at once to share in their success, you can read the blog we sent back here. Throughout the expedition, opening up a camera trap to look inside at the images, was like unwrapping a present, never quite knowing what you might get. It was rarely disappointing, even when the footage shows a hyena chewing on the camera, or a cow kicking it over. But of course, the most exciting part was more footage of leopard, and better this time. Take a moment to watch the video below, and please help me raise awareness of the critically endangered Arabian Leopard.Expedition Blog:

There’s two more videos of Caracal and Hyena over on YouTube, here.