Big Cats Under Threat: Leopard Conservation in the Kruger

Protecting Africa’s leopards has become a conservation issue of increasing importance. Panthera, one of Singita’s non-profit conservation partners, estimates that this once-widespread species has vanished from at least 49% of its historic range on the continent and is already extinct in six countries, and possibly six more.

The species is threatened by illegal killing for their skins and other body parts used for ceremonial regalia, conflict with local people, rampant bushmeat poaching, and poorly managed trophy hunting. Part of Panthera’s response to this conservation challenge is the Furs for Life project; high-quality, affordable faux leopard skins made available by the organisation for use in religious ceremonies. Surveys undertaken at these gatherings indicate that the provision of faux furs has already reduced demand for skins by 50%, preventing hundreds of leopard deaths each year.

In addition to Furs for Life, Panthera makes use of leopard sightings data from Singita Sabi Sand‘s field guides to learn more about the behaviour and population dynamics of these elusive cats. This data suggests that the Sabi Sand leopards are one of the world’s best-protected populations and, as a result, can be found here in their greatest density of any region surveyed on the continent. Recent camera trap surveys in the concession support this finding and have driven the decision to expand this research project to Singita Kruger National Park in order to determine density in an area which is much larger and has greater exposure to threats like human encroachment.