Oldest leopard in Israel dies

Babta was the oldest known leopard in Israel and was considered to have reached a very old age for a leopard in captivity. She was caught in the late 1970s at the Ein Gedi nature reserve after nearby kibbutz members complained she was eating their pet cats and dogs and was a threat to human lives.

Her capture marked the first concrete proof that leopards live in the Judean Desert. The exact number of leopards there now is not known, but NPNPA chief veterinarian Ronnie King said it is "probably less than a handful."

After an autopsy, Babta's skin, bones and other parts were preserved separately.

Scientists also kept some of her tissues for genetic fingerprinting, King said, "so that we can match up the leopards here with other leopards elsewhere. For example, we will be able to see in the future whether the leopards in Israel are related to those of Saudi Arabia."