Panthera’s Project Pardus is the first comprehensive conservation program to span the leopard’s range, which extends across approximately 62 countries. Panthera is currently leading or supporting conservation activities in 16 leopard range states. Program highlights are listed below.
Panthera’s work in Gabon includes monitoring the status of leopards living in and around some of the country’s largest protected areas. Along with elephants, leopard data is being used to collect information on the best places to create conservation corridors, ensuring Gabon’s impressive network of national parks remain connected in the face of increasing development and deforestation.
A significant portion of the leopard’s range in India extends beyond the borders of protected areas, more so than any other cat. In this densely-populated country, Panthera’s efforts include mitigating human-leopard conflict in areas where leopards live alongside people. Our conflict work ranges from educating villagers on how best to avoid leopards to rescuing leopards trapped in abandoned wells.
As in many leopard range states, human-leopard conflict is a significant issue in Namibia, where landowners and community members in remote regions kill leopards in retaliation for – or in anticipation of –livestock predation. In areas of high conflict in the northern parts of the country, Panthera works to mitigate tensions including helping villagers to reinforce livestock corrals. We also participate in population monitoring to assess the status of leopard populations and to investigate whether conflict mitigation interventions are resulting in improvements in leopard numbers of nearby protected areas. Leopards are also trophy hunted in Namibia, and Panthera’s monitoring project aims to investigate the impacts of trophy hunting on their populations, and to use these data to improve trophy hunting management.
Poaching and human-wildlife conflict are major threats to leopards and other large cats in Nepal. In 2014, under the umbrella of its Tigers Forever Program, Panthera developed a partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the National Trust for Nature Conservation, and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation to provide the technical expertise, camera traps, and training to monitor leopard populations, implement law enforcement monitoring to track and guide law enforcement efforts, and establish effective site security in Parsa Wildlife Reserve. Since then, in collaboration with ZSL, we’ve expanded our work to Bardia, Banke and Suklaphanta National Parks and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve.
Panthera’s Furs for Life Leopard Program works with the Nazareth Baptist “Shembe” Church – one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in southern Africa – to replace leopard skins worn as ceremonial regalia with high-quality synthetic replicas. More than 18,500 synthetic amambatha (traditional shoulder capes) have already been donated to the Shembe thanks to our partnership with the Peace Parks Foundation and Cartier. Ultimately, Panthera will target other groups that use leopard fur for religious and ceremonial attire to provide and ensure sustainable alternatives.
South Africa is also where Panthera runs the two most comprehensive long-term studies on leopards ever undertaken. The Munyawana Leopard Project monitored 74 leopards intensively by telemetry for over a decade. The data collected provided helped overhaul national leopard hunting protocols, leading to a dramatic recovery of the local leopard population. The Sabi Sands Leopard Project works with guides from photo-tourism lodges to track the remarkably habituated leopards inhabiting this reserve. Through this effort, Panthera has monitored more than 600 leopards over the last 35 years; a unique dataset that provides important insight into the lives of leopards, as well as an essential baseline that can inform future conservation strategies.
Panthera also runs a leopard population monitoring project that aims to track changes in key leopard populations around the country. This project, which began in 2013, has provided valuable data which have helped to influence leopard management and conservation policy throughout South Africa.
In August 2019, Panthera and the Barotse Royal Establishment of the Lozi people of western Zambia joined forces to launch Saving Spots. Every year, nearly 200 Lozi community members participate as paddlers in the Kuomboka Festival, a massive gathering on the Zambezi River to escort His Majesty the Lozi King between palaces by barge. They wear lipatelo, which are elaborate, full-length skirts made of leopard, serval and other animal furs, and lion-mane trimmed berets, known as mishukwe. This first year, they received 200 Panthera-created synthetic versions to replace the use of real furs by paddlers. Our goal is to help reduce the hunting of hundreds of wild cats across southern Africa where the species are already severely threatened.
Panthera’s efforts in Zimbabwe are focused on monitoring leopard populations, and in particular, trying to assess the impact of trophy hunting on them. Using its proprietary PantheraCams – which are now the industry standard for cat surveys – Panthera monitors leopard populations in protected national parks and nearby hunting areas in order to assess the impact of trophy hunting on leopard populations. Trophy hunting is an important source of revenue for conservation in Zimbabwe, but there are concerns over the sustainability of the current levels of hunting. Panthera’s work will provide valuable data on the impacts of trophy hunting on leopard populations and will be used to inform conservation policy and management.