Conservation of Leopard – Africa

Conservation of Leopard – Africa

Project Animal(s) : Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Project Category : Mammals
Project Region : Africa
Project Type : Conservation
Project URL :
Project is timebound? : No

The leopard is included in the Appendix I of CITES. It is largely protected across its range. Hunting is prohibited or restricted to “problem” animals in Angola, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Togo and Uganda. Killing “problem” leopards occurs and is generally permitted. The legal international traffic is limited to an annual quota for export of sport hunting skins and trophies. Trade in leopard skins is restricted to 2,560 individuals in 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. There is no legal protection in Gambia, Lebanon, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. No information is available for Burundi, Chad, Guinea and Libya.

Throughout its range it is important to reduce the source of conflict between human and leopards. Compensation procedures for depredated livestock and improved livestock husbandry practices and management measures, reducing the risk of depredation, are important as they can increase the tolerance of people towards leopards and thus reduce the conflict. Moreover, raising public awareness, involving local inhabitants and establishing protected areas help to ensure the survival of the leopard. Translocation or removal of problem animals does not address the source of the problem and does not seem to be a suitable mitigation of such conflicts in the long term, sometimes, even aggravating the situation. Additionally, habitat fragmentation and loss should be mitigated as much as possible. In Africa, most of the leopards live outside protected areas and mortality rates of leopards are much higher in border areas or outside of protected areas. Therefore, it is important to increase the size of such areas and to take conservation measures outside of protected regions. Thus, human activities must be addressed on both sides of reserves to assure the long term survival of leopards.

In areas where leopards are subject to hunting or persecution, it is important to include numerical and functional components of their population dynamics into account when doing conservation work. Activities such as trophy hunting that may artificially elevate turnover among breeding males may increase rates of infanticide to unsustainable levels. It must be assured that trophy hunting takes place in a sustainable way and is well managed. It was indicated, that an age-based hunting approach seems practically applicable for leopards as it is possible to identify the age of leopards at sight. A safe harvest is more likely if hunting is restricted to male leopards over 7 years, when they are old enough to have reared their first cohort of offspring to independence. Alternatively, quotas should be reduced to conservative levels. An effort should be made to ensure hunting pressure is equitably distributed throughout available leopard range based on ecological boundaries rather than administrative ones. Moreover, in order to hunt leopard populations sustainably, robust density estimates are needed as well as thorough monitoring programmes to assure a sustainable harvest without harming the population. To adress the killing of leopards for their furs used in traditional ceremonies, conservationists in South Africa have partnerd with textile companies and communitites to provide faux-fur alternatives.

Namibia conducted an assessment of trophy hunting. Zambia placed a moratorium on leopard and lion hunting in 2013. In South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana, researchers have developed regional studies of the hunting quota system. Beside others, trophy quality and geographical distribution of permits were analysed and measures suggested. In 2014, sport hunting has been banned in Botswana and South Africa placed a moratorium on leopard trophy hunting for the year 2016.

Project Agency : Cat Specialist Group

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