The Royal Society Open Science (RSOS) has issued a report (accepted 20 March 2017) that studies “Population dynamics and threats to an apex predator outside protected areas: implications for carnivore management;” in particular the African leopard (Panthera pardus) within South Africa:
This report concluded:
“The density of leopards in the case study declined by 66% over seven and a half years. The number of adult males was relatively stable, while the number of adult females and cubs declined over the course of the study. Illegal anthropogenic threats such as snaring, shooting and poisoning appear to be the main threats to the population. To date much attention has focused on improving trophy hunting of large carnivores, but our data suggest that the importance of other sources of anthropogenic mortality should not be overlooked, and efforts to mitigate these threats could have a bigger impact on the conservation status of large carnivores than improving legal trophy hunting.”
So whilst attention remains focussed on the South African, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) proposed reintroducing of leopard trophy hunting (despite the lack of credible leopard population data, but a widely acknowledged decline in the overall population), this RSOS report highlights the need to prioritise all illegal and damaging taking of leopards (and other such threatened species), but also cautions and “calls into question the sustainability of additive off take through legal mechanisms of leopard removals such as trophy hunting and damage-causing animal destruction permits.”
Furthermore, the report continues “trophy hunting of large carnivores can be associated with elevated levels of human– wildlife conﬂict and increased mortality from persecution.” This persecution is “often in retaliation to perceived […leopards cause less livestock damage than farmers perceive….] livestock predation or for bushmeat, and this may be driving steep declines in the leopard population.”
The persecution will only end when all negative human impacts to such threatened species are mitigated (and the pandering to killing wildlife out of misguided policy, ignorance, income/fun etc. discarded to allow apex predator population densities to recover).
“African Leopard – Endangered Species,” IWB, 21 January 2017