The country is South Africa, the backdrop is Cape Town and we are at The Department of Environmental Affairs. It’s an environment where a lot of important decisions are made and it’s a place that sets quotas, quotas for trophy hunting. This time we’re looking at Leopards. So, how many are being hunted in 2016? 5?….10?….20?….1000? (too far?). If you’re holding something important, you better put it down, because this news may come as quite a shock. The number of leopards being hunted in 2016 will be….0.
A stifled hooray at work, or a crafty little jig in the kitchen, this is good news for those people who oppose the theory behind trophy hunting. Despite this good news however, the reasoning behind it may not be such a cause for celebration. The decision comes after the Scientific Authority of South Africa declared that the number of leopards in the country is actually unknown. Without this vital information, quotas cannot be decided as any hunting could be detrimental to the very survival of the species, particularly if the population is low. According to CITES, South Africa can grant up to 150 leopard trophy permits each year, but warnings and rumours that leopard permits would not be granted began to surface in 2015.
The reasoning behind this decision came after the Scientific Authority identified a number of problem factors. It showed that leopards had a low reproductive rate, their distribution was highly fragmented, population was unknown, little control of illegal harvesting of the species and that only 5-15% of leopard habitats are protected.
Guy Balme of the NGO Panthera said: “We just don’t know how leopards are faring in South Africa. They’re secretive, mainly nocturnal, solitary and range over huge areas.”
Whilst Kelly Marnewick, a carnivore conservation manager at the Environmental Wildlife Trust, said:
“It’s important to ensure that any wildlife trade we do is sustainable. If we can’t do that, it’s highly problematical. We need a trade ban until we can get to that.”
The decision to have a ban on hunting leopards throughout 2016 has been supported by conservationists, with the mismanagement of trophy hunting and the illegal trade being the main threats to leopard populations in South Africa. Trophy hunting however is a big business and brings substantial amounts of money to the country, with wealthy customers paying tens of thousands for the opportunity to hunt an animal belonging to one of the big five: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo. In total, it is estimated that trophy hunting generates $379,000 for South Africa each year.
So, the leopards of South Africa are safe for 2016, at least from licensed hunting. However, the illegal trade in fur and poaching is still a huge threat. Without trophy hunting, they have been granted some kind of respite.
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