Thursday, May 04, 2017

South African Leopards Declining Rapidly

Mafana, credit US PERSON
A new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal concludes that leopards (Panthera pardus) living in South Africa's Soutspanberg Moutains are declining at a rate of 44% between 2012 and 2016.  South African declared a ban on leopard hunting due to concern for their survival amid mismanagement of trophy hunting and poaching for their spotted fur.  The authors argue that the ban should not be lifted in areas were leopard numbers are in decline more rapidly than previously thought.  A team from Durham University in UK performed the four year survey using 23 camera traps in the Soutspanberg, one of the last leopard strongholds in Africa.  The alarming decline of two-thirds of the population cannot be sustained, and leopards will disappear from the area by 2020 concludes Dr. Samuel Williams, the lead author.  Even more than trophy hunting, called "a luxury that cannot be afforded", Dr. Williams thinks illegal retaliatory killings by stock herders is taking a heavier toll on leopards living outside unprotected areas.  Of eight adult leopards fitted with GPS collars in the study, six died from human retaliation for fear of livestock losses.  Leopards have lost 80% of their historic range in South Africa.  Close to seventy percent of remaining leopard habitat is outside of protected areas.