Panthera’s Leopard Program Is Saving Lives
Two years ago we wrote about a new idea to help save the wild leopard, one of the world’s most persecuted big cats. The beautiful fur of the leopard is highly sought after and to make matters worse, today the demand for leopard skin is increasing among members of South Africa’s Shembe Baptist Church, which has adopted the Zulu practice of wearing spotted cat fur, mostly leopard, during religious celebrations. Even though trade in leopard skins is illegal in South Africa, the Shembe’s estimated 5 million members were spreading the practice.
Tristan Dickerson, Panthera’s Leopard Program Coordinator visited several Shembe gatherings to research the amount of leopard skins being used at these events. It was estimated that nearly 1,000 leopard skins were either worn or being sold at just one of the gatherings that he attended.
Tristan spent a year working with designers and clothing companies to create high quality and affordable fake leopard skins, which he presented at Shembe gatherings. At one event, there was a large number of fake leopard skins being worn by children and elders, and this was a sign of hope for Africa’s leopard populations.