Victory! South Africa Bans Leopard Hunts in 2016

Conservationists in South Africa are celebrating after the government announced a moratorium on leopard hunts in 2016. The Department of Environmental Affairs stressed that the ban only extended for one year – and will be reconsidered after studies on leopard populations were undertaken. Yet for many, this shows a positive step in the direction of stopping or limiting trophy hunting in Southern Africa.

The debate over leopard populations in South Africa has been going on for years. The Leopard Conservation Project writes that, “In 2005, concerns were raised by the Population Habitat Viability Assessment workshop that found that leopard populations were smaller than previously thought, that is most definitely a result of growing human population, and therefore loss of habitat, persecution and hunting. Based on the insufficient knowledge of leopard numbers and status, decisions such as CITES doubling the amount of hunting permits given per annum in 2004 continue to happen.”

CITES, which stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, usually allocates about 150 permits to hunt leopards each year. Yet without really knowing the total population, this could prove devastating to South Africa’s leopards.

Leopards are hard to track in the wild. Because of this, managing counts of populations can be challenging.

Guy Balme of Panthera described the difficulty of counting leopard numbers last year, saying:

We just don’t know how leopards are faring in South Africa. They’re secretive, mainly nocturnal, solitary and range over huge areas. Counting them requires intensive research using expensive technology such camera traps, which can only be deployed over small areas, far smaller than the areas in which hunting quotas are determined.”

Hunting quotas and the act of trophy hunting are contentious topics in Africa and all over the world. Many African countries have banned the practice, and seen promising results in wildlife resurgence. However, hunting safaris are still a multi-million dollar business.

Conservationist Gareth Patterson has likened trophy hunting to mass murder, saying:

“Killing innocent animals for self-gratification is no different from killing innocent people for self-gratification. By extension, then, trophy hunting–the repeated killing of wild animals–should surely be viewed as serial killing. And in the same moral light humanity’s thinking is, I feel beginning to approach such a level of morality.”

Yet some feel it can actually help conservation. Katie Pavlich writes that:

Hunters spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year in Africa, directly fueling local economies, employment and conservation efforts…Hunters are the reason healthy animal populations of once endangered species are thriving today.”

It’s a common argument, but inherently flawed when viewed through the African lens. Yes, hunting does bring in millions of dollars each year. However, most of this money actually goes to lodge owners (almost exclusively white South Africans) and hunting outfits (again almost exclusively owned by white South Africans).

An investigation of this money trail found that the amount of local revenue that came from hunting and tourism related to hunting was negligible and suggests there would be minimal impact on local communities if hunting were banned altogether. That same report also found that reducing hunting in South Africa would actually “increase the chances of the species’ survival in the wild.” A shock, I know.

It’s important that South Africa has taken the steps to ensure the actual population of leopards is known before allowing hunters to kill them off one by one. However, it would make more sense from an economical and conservationist perspective to end their harmful hunting program altogether.

Photo Credit: Steve Garvie/Wikimedia

143 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla1 years ago

As long as human population is not controlled in sites like these, these animals will never survive. Besides hunting, conflicts with humans will exist BECAUSE WE'VE INVADED THEIR TERRITORY

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mari s.
Mari S1 years ago

STOP ALL HUNTING OF ANIMALS -- we all know it's NOT about conservation, which is a lot of boloney!

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Patricia Harris
John Taylor1 years ago

Jonathan Y., you are so right!! It's never enough if the ban is only temporary, and those money hungry scumbags are expecting the ban to be lifted any day!!

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Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.1 years ago

I'd like to see all animals protected permanently

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Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y1 years ago

Good step, but not enough. Big money behind hunting these poor animals (and the other 'Big 5', lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino). Part of the problem in S.Africa is that leopard and lion skin/claws are considered royal insigna by the Zulu, Swazi and other tribes. However the hunt should be severely limited if possible.

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Patricia Harris
John Taylor1 years ago

BANS SHOULD BE PERMANENT!!!!!!!!!!!!

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angel l.
Angela L1 years ago

Hunters are killers. Why don't they make good use of their courage to hunt Isis or terrorists. The same thing that terrorists are ambushed and hunters are chicken to be killed. That's why they hunt animals who are hunted by ambushed whimpy hunters.

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Manuela C.
Manuela C1 years ago

It should be forever.

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Marie W.
Marie W1 years ago

No hunting period!

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