Fur For Life – saving leopards in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area

  • Focal species: Leopard (Panthera pardus)
  • Secondary species: African hunting-dogs (Lycaon pictus), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Lion (Panthera leo), serval (Lepetailurus serval), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)
  • Countries: Zambia
  • Name of organisation: Panthera
  • Support requested:
    contributions for specific items >1000 euro,
    contributions to running of project <1000 euro
  • Does this project benefit local people through employment and/or capacity building: yes

Project Description

Thousands of leopards are killed each year in southern Africa to fuel local demand for their skins. To address this threat without impinging on cultural values, Panthera created a high-quality, affordable faux leopard skin for use in ceremonies. These faux skins were first tested in South Africa among members of the Shembe Church; 15,000 faux skins have been donated between 2014 and 2017 with encouraging results. Initially, 90% of leopard skins seen at Shembe gatherings were authentic, more than 50% are now fakes. Our aim is now to expand the project to other groups using leopard skins, beginning with the Lozi in southwest Zambia. The Lozi, like the Shembe, wear leopard skins as symbols of prestige. However, what was once the privilege of a select few is now commonplace among the Lozi; hundreds of leopard skins can be seen at a single gathering. Each faux skin donated represents a leopard saved, while the production of faux skins provides employment and business opportunities to an impoverished people. To assess the effectiveness of the project, inform broader conservation policies and demonstrate the negative impact trophee hunting, a regional surveillance network will be established to track leopard population trends across the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.

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