Thursday, July 12, 2007

S. Africa: Farmer kills leopard in conservation area

John Yeld
Cape Argus (Cape Town)
11 July 2007

Yet another Cape mountain leopard has been killed in the Baviaanskloof wilderness area near Patensie in the Eastern Cape - this time by a farmer who was hunting in a formal conservation area.

This brings the number of leopard deaths in the area to more than 20 since the conservation organisation Landmark Foundation started keeping records in late 2002.

"Sadly I must report that we lost our 21st leopard - all except one of these leopards have died in the Greater Baviaanskloof area," said foundation director Dr Bool Smuts.

Smuts said the leopard had attacked the Suurvelt farmer.

"The farmer was mauled while he was out with a hired hunter and dogs investigating the presence of a leopard. He had not reported any (stock) losses to conservation authorities and the attack occurred on adjoining conservation land."

The farmer had been unsure whether he had hit the leopard. After receiving treatment in hospital, he inspected the site of the attack where he found the leopard's decomposing body.

"So another leopard is dead, this one without it being a proven 'problem' animal. It was hunted by dogs without a permit, and on conservation land," Smuts said.

"The Landmark Foundation continues to do all in its power to convince landowners to target only 'problem' animals."

Smuts said they had saved five leopards from certain death, releasing four in Addo and one in Baviaanskloof.

The foundation provided extension services to at least 70 farmers and sponsored sheep collars, Anatolian guard dogs, leopard traps, tracking collars and compensation mechanisms in experimental areas to promote non-lethal solutions to "problem leopards".

"We have sponsorships of about R500 000 towards our research programme and extension functions," Smuts said.

The Landmark Foundation is a non-government organisation that aims to promote the conservation use of land.

"What is required is a landmark change of thinking and behaviour, whereby biodiversity and landscape conservation provides investment returns and benefits to people, that in turn creates incentives for its conservation," it says on its website.

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