The conservation group ‘Panthera’ have launched a plan to conserve the leopard.
With a rapidly growing human population on the African continent, Leopards are becoming increasingly vulnerable. The animals’ numbers are diminishing as a result of habitat loss, illegal hunting for their skins, and other factors.
An estimated 1,500 and 2,500 leopards are killed each year in the South African region to meet demand for skins from the Shembe church. The Shembe church has a membership of over a million people and is a blend of Old Testament-based Christianity and African Zulu beliefs. The Shembe church uses leopard skins in their ceremonial attire at church gatherings. According to Panthera, some 15,000 real pelts are currently circulating in the religious community.
Conservationists are hoping to expand their fake fur campaign to other ethnic groups and African countries where leopard pelts are incorporated into ceremonial attire.
The Panthera conservation group says it has donated more than 14,000 fake leopard skins to Shembe followers, and demand for real leopard pelts has reduced by 50% as a result of the campaign.