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Tristan Dickerson is a South African zoologist whose interest in predators led him to join Panthera’s Munyawana Leopard Project. After studying biology and behavioral ecology at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Tristan worked as a research assistant for the Pilanesburg National Park Elephant Project and the Phinda Black Rhino Project.
In the five years that he has been with Panthera, Tristan’s work has focused on capturing, collaring and radio tracking the leopard population in Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Phinda Game Reserve. Much of Tristan’s work for Panthera also involves physical tracking of Phinda’s leopards and mitigating human-leopard conflicts in the Kwa-Zulu Natal region.
Most recently, Tristan has worked through Panthera’s Furs For Life Leopard Project to create a high-quality, affordable and realistic fake leopard skin for use among followers of the Shembe Church. Today, the Shembe community encompasses 5-11 million members, who wear leopard skins during religious ceremonies. To reduce the hunting of leopards and demand for real leopard skins, while respecting the cultural traditions of the Shembe, Tristan has developed strong partnerships with leaders of the Church. Now, these leaders are encouraging followers to utilize Panthera’s fake skins, which last much longer than real skins, and are a fraction of the costs – under $30 (USD) a piece.