Humans are the primary predators of leopards, capturing them for the pet trade and hunting them for trophies, fur, skin, traditional medicine, and retaliation.
Humans are the primary predators of leopards.
In South-east and East Asia, poaching for leopard prey and targeted leopard hunts for the wildlife trade market are taking place. Leopards are often captured for the pet trade and are targeted and hunted as trophy animals for their fur.
A regional survey found that leopards in India have been poached at a rate of four individuals per week for the illegal wildlife trade. The illegal trade of leopard parts was comparable to that of tigers (Panthera tigris) in Asian range States and derivative seizures with an average of 3.5 leopards seizure cases per month in India since 2000.
Preliminary data suggest that the illegal trade in leopard skins for cultural regalia is rampant in southern Africa. It is suggested that 4,500-7,000 leopards are harvested annually to fuel the demand for leopard skins by followers of the Nazareth Babtist (Shembe) Church only. Poorly managed trophy hunting adds to pressure on local leopard populations. Trophy hunting was a key driver of leopard population decline prior to intervention in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Similarly, Leopards are over-harvested across much of their range in Limpopo Province, South Africa.
The concern about unsustainable trophy hunting has lately increased. South Africa has banned trophy hunting for 2016. This followed an alert by its CITES Scientific Authority that the number of leopards in the country was unknown, and that trophy hunting posed a high risk to the survival of the species.
Chiefs and warriors from tribal cultures throughout the leopard’s geographic range wear their fur as a symbol of honor and courage. Tribal medicine men and women suggest leopard skins as a remedy for bad omens.
Retaliatory killings of leopards by farmers protecting their livestock are not uncommon.
• Image | © Martin Frey, Some Rights Reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
• Sources | (African Wildlife Foundation, 2009; Balme, Slotow, & Hunter, 2009; Hunt, 2011; Nowell & Pervushina, 2014; Pitman, Swanepoel, Hunter, Slotow, & Balme, 2015; Raza, Chauhan, Pasha, & Sinha, 2012; Stein, et al., 2016)