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  • Writer's pictureDon Heyneke

International Leopard Day 2021: Celebrating Leopards

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

Every species on earth has its unique role to play in maintaining an over-arching ecological balance both in life and in nature. Today, 3 May 2021, marks the annual celebration of International Leopard Day. It is a day that celebrates leopards and attempts to increase the global awareness of their status and what threatens wild populations. The objective is to raise awareness amongst conservationist, naturalists, charities and all those with an interest in one of the world`s most beautiful and iconic cats.

This naturally shy and elusive cat will forever hold a special place in the hearts of the Escape team. After having spent time working in the best place in the world to view leopards, Londolozi Game Reserve, we have all developed a natural affinity to leopards. Collectively, we have been fortunate to have spent over 15 years at Londolozi which has meant that our "window" into a leopards life was wide open. Over this time, we gained an intimate understanding of how these creatures go about their daily lives.

There is an innate allure about the elusive leopard that explorers, naturalists and safari-goers alike have been seeking for centuries. The leopard is the epitome of what every guest wants to see on safari, even if it is a fleeting glimpse or just a few spots. Historically, catching a glimpse of a leopard was considered lucky, and this remains true in most areas of Africa and Asia.

When you are lucky enough to see a leopard in the wild, it is so striking that it takes your breath away. The leopard has a magical and mystical ora about it.

"Leopards have the largest range of all the big cats and occupy a wide variety of habitats, from the Congo rainforest to the deserts of the middle east. Despite their remarkable adaptability, leopard populations are in steep decline across Africa and Asia" - Panthera

The leopard’s range spans roughly 62 countries across much of Africa and Eurasia and they are likely the most persecuted large cat across the globe. Leopards are listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The leopard is classified as “Endangered” in Central Asia and Sri Lanka and “Critically Endangered” in the Middle East, Russia, and on the Indonesian island of Java.

Leopards are under huge threat where they now remain in the wild and there are multiple causes for the decline in their populations.

Rampant bushmeat poaching depletes prey populations and poses a direct threat to leopards; they are often caught and killed in wire snares and traps set for other species. As leopards lose their habitat to human development, they are increasingly killed in retaliation for the real and perceived threat they pose to livestock.

Leopards frequently cling to survival in human-dominated landscapes, increasing the likelihood of human-leopard conflict. Poorly managed trophy hunting in East and Southern Africa is also contributing to the decline in leopard populations. Leopards are often killed illegally for their skins and other body parts, which are widely sought after across their range for ceremonial regalia

Panthera has partnered with the IUCN Cat Specialist Group to develop the first range-wide conservation strategy for leopards. In addition to leading the two most comprehensive long-term studies of leopards ever undertaken, Panthera has partnered with authorities from several range states to rigorously track leopard population trends in order to identify populations in need of conservation attention and to inform and evaluate effective management of the species.

Through their Furs for Life Leopard Project in partnership with the Peace Parks Foundation, Panthera is working with local communities in southern Africa to reduce the demand for leopard skins used in traditional ceremonies by providing high-quality faux replicas.

In honour of International Leopard Day, we are proud to share some incredible footage from our safaris of the most sought after big cats.

Come Escape with us.

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