The leopard (Panthera pardus) has the widest range of all the big cats, spanning much of Africa and Eurasia, with nine recognized subspecies. Despite their extensive range, and the fact that untold variations of leopard print make it the most ubiquitous and recognizable statement of fashion today, the leopard is now the most persecuted large cat in the world.
Although resilient and adaptable, leopards have been eradicated from vast tracts of Africa and Eurasia as a direct result of a rapidly expanding human population. They have vanished from almost 40% of their historic range in Africa and from over 50% of their historic range in Eurasia. Leopards are also under threat due to relentless loss of habitat and prey species, and are being killed in the thousands in retaliation for conflict with livestock herders, by unsustainable legal trophy hunting and by poaching for their skins and body parts.
Despite this, leopards are often accorded little conservation attention. Their wide distribution, from Africa’s southern tip to the Russian Far East, and legendary tenacity has led to complacency and lack of action. Panthera’s Leopard Program - ‘Project Pardus’ - was launched to reverse this trend and secure the leopard’s future. It is the first global effort to place this neglected and severely persecuted big cat on the conservation radar by conducting rigorous science to deliver the most effective conservation solutions.
In 2014, Shania Twain, the world's best-selling female country artist of all time, joined with Panthera to serve as the Global Ambassador for Project Pardus. With a connection to leopards stemming back to her famous leopard print outfits and a legendary passion for animals, Shania will help bring attention to the leopard’s plight and the solutions Panthera can bring.
Read Panthera’s press release, "Shania Twain Raises Her Voice for Wild Leopards."
Panthera’s Leopard Conservation Footprint
- Panthera’s MunYaWana Leopard Project in South Africa is the most comprehensive long-term study of the species ever undertaken, with 74 leopards monitored intensively by telemetry over a decade. It provided the rigorous science required to overhaul South African protocols on leopard trophy hunting. Our changes led to a dramatic drop in the numbers of leopards killed, and the recovery of the local leopard population.
- Panthera’s Furs For Life Leopard Project works with the southern African Nazareth Baptist ‘Shembe’ Church to replace the illegal practice of wearing leopard skins with high-quality faux replicas. To date, Panthera has provided 6,000 faux amambathas (traditional shoulder capes) to the Shembe with the assistance of the logistics company DHL. Our team will double that number by 2016 and target other groups using leopard fur for religious and ceremonial attire to provide sustainable alternatives.
- Panthera is working to conserve Persian or Caucasian leopards in Iran, and led the first team to deploy GPS collars on leopards in the country. With Iranian and other partners, our long-term objective is to establish a connected corridor across northern Iran preserving the connectivity to critically endangered leopards in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkmenistan.
- In India, Panthera’s scientists are fitting radio-collars on leopards in rural landscapes to understand when and if leopards create real conflict with people, versus the widespread perception of conflict that often results in leopard deaths, simply for being present. Our team is working to recruit and train a cadre of Leopard Guards from local communities to assist the monitoring cats, and help their people address the sources of conflict before a genuine problem arises.
- Panthera has surveyed dozens of countries across Africa and Asia for the presence of leopards, including in some very remote regions where conservation has been neglected. Our PantheraCam (camera trap) is now the industry standard for surveying and counting wild cats, with over 2,000 deployed in Africa and Asia where leopards (and other cats) occur.
The Goal of Project Pardus
Over the next decade, Panthera’s goal is to aggressively expand our Leopard Program across the species’ range, with a particular focus on the most imperiled populations. Panthera will draw on the expertise of our local partners to stem the leopard’s downward decline in key geographies. Our objectives include:
- Undertake the first conservation strategic planning process for the leopard across its range in Africa and Asia
- Undertake surveys to establish leopard presence and/or abundance in key, neglected sites across the range
- Reduce leopard-human conflict and illegal killing in globally significant landscapes in Asia and Africa
- Stabilize and increase prey through reducing bushmeat demand in key landscapes in Asia and Africa
- Reduce or limit legal trophy hunting of leopards in all hunting nations by 2022
- Replace 80% of the use of leopard fur by the African Shembe church with faux replicas
Leopards Need Your Support
Panthera’s Project Pardus is the answer to an urgent threat where the fate of an iconic species, whether it survives or perishes, is at stake. But we cannot do this alone. Consider making a contribution to Panthera to support the future of leopards and other big cats around the world. 100% of donations go directly to support field programs.