Facts about leopard case
ORIGINALLY used only by hunters, the term “Big Five” refers to five of Africa’s greatest wild animals – lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard. These animals conjure up the romance and excitement of Africa’s exotic destinations. Even though rhino poaching is a matter of great concern for South Africans today, lots of publicity was also recently afforded to the Western Cape leopard. Unfortunately many of the reports were misleading and follow the breakdown of a relationship between Capenature and a partner in leopard conservation, the Landmark Foundation.
As is often the case when a partnership turns sour, false accusations have been made. These included allegations that Capenature acted illegally and unreasonably by putting down a male leopard on a stock farmer’s property in Ceres. As a statutory body, accountable to the citizens of the Western Cape, Capenature would like to clarify these issues.
Capenature follows strict internal protocols and regards euthanasia as the last option. In this case, the animal was given a number of chances to rehabilitate but an injured leg and evidence of a loss of fear for humans were among the key considerations.
Over a year, the male leopard had killed 12 stud calves which were found by the dairy manager and another 10 animals which were never found. Capenature was called in, and can confirm at least six calves had been killed by the leopard. The same leopard had been trapped by Capenature and released twice before on the property in conjunction with the landowner. The profit loss of one of these animals has an estimated value of R70 000 to the farm.
Even after these attacks the landowner was willing to apply mitigating measures as negotiated and promised by the Landmark Foundation. Those included payment for stock losses and provision of electric fencing only around the dairy to protect the young calves.
These promises by the Landmark Foundation never materialised and left the farmer and his stock unprotected against the leopard, which had adopted damage- causing hunting habits it could not unlearn.
After the leopard broke through bars to hunt stud animals, Capenature was called in again. We found it necessary to make a decision based on the case history, which included a further three stock animals which were killed by the same leopard in De Doorns, prior to the most recent incident. The physical condition of the leopard and a local veterinary recommendation were taken into account.
Section 18 of the Western Cape Nature Conservation Ordinance, No 19 of 1974, grants Capenature the authority to put down an animal if it considers that animal to cause damage to crops, livestock or property; is a threat to human life, or is wounded, diseased or injured. The national legislation guiding a public entity such as Capenature’s actions in such a case is unclear and we await an outcome from the National Department of Environmental Affairs on this matter.
Our excellent partnerships with NGOS such as the Cape Leopard Trust, landowners and other leopard conservation agencies are important to us. The co-operation of these partners has contributed to a healthy leopard population in the Western Cape.