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Saving the South African Leopard

11 Feb 2020 | By Author Thornybush | Wildlife

The leopard is Africa’s most beautiful cat and a sought-after sighting on any South African safari. Your best chance of seeing one is on a game drive with Thornybush, but this could all change soon.

More Than Elusive

Leopards are a popular sighting because of their incredible beauty, rarity and power.

Unfortunately, their scarcity is not only due to their elusive nature. Leopard numbers are dwindling and they’re a longstanding member of the ever-growing Red List of fast-disappearing vulnerable creatures.

As it is, South Africa’s leopard population of just 5 000 individuals is declining at a rate of 8% per year.

Here in the Great Kruger area, we’re working together to do everything we can to stop this downward trend in leopard numbers.

What’s Going Wrong for Leopards?

In the wild, leopards have little to fear from predators, with only the occasional lion to contend with. In fact, more leopards are killed by leopards than any other wild creature.

The problem is man. Habitat destruction is near the top of the list of reasons why leopards are disappearing fast. It is estimated that these cats have disappeared from over 49% of their natural range in Africa.

Where they remain, they cope surprisingly well outside of protected areas, apart from the fact that they must hunt to survive. This often brings them into conflict with livestock farmers, who fear that their sheep, goats and chickens are little more than sitting ducks for these accomplished predators.

Unfortunately, fate has dealt the leopard a losing hand. Their large, gorgeous spotted coats and Big Five status make them a sought-after target for traditional rituals as well as the fur trade and trophy hunting.

Furs for Life

The Furs for Life project offers a simple solution to some of the problems associated with leopard skin – by faking it.

Their faux leopard fur designs have already managed to reduce the demand for skins by a staggering 50%.

Local Shembe tribes, who rely heavily on the symbolic significance of leopard skin as part of their traditions have helped in a big way by getting on board with this initiative.

Trapping the Cats

Our neck of the woods is one of the areas with the densest population of leopards worldwide and as such is the site of much research into leopard behaviour, with ongoing camera traps placed in reserves around the area.

These images are used to monitor the existing populations and make provision for further conservation efforts. By knowing where our leopards are, we can continue to harvest genetic material from them and watch them more closely.

What Can You Do to Help?

Reading this is the first step. By getting to know more about the problem, you can help to increase awareness of the leopard’s plight.

Spread the word when you get back home and encourage your friends to visit South Africa to learn about and appreciate our magnificent wildlife.

When you book a South African safari, your conservation fees and a portion of your tariffs help towards conserving all the species in the care of our conservation organisations.

Book your safari with Thornybush now and join us in the fight to save these precious cats.