Leopards under threat

25 September 2019 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

The killing of problem leopards without reporting it to the environment ministry is one of the greatest threats to the Namibian leopard population.
This is according to the latest leopard census conducted in partnership with the Namibia Professional Hunting Association and the environment ministry from September 2017 to March 2019.
The last comprehensive leopard census undertaken in Namibia was in 2010/2011.
The report indicates that the leopard population in Namibia has declined from 14 154 in 2011 to an estimated 11 733. A total of 392 respondents took part in the study, 157 of whom indicated that they had killed leopards on their farms.
Of those respondents, 50% indicated that they had not applied to the ministry for the relevant permit.
Over the duration of the study respondents reported getting rid of 342 leopards, compared to the 196 problem leopards recorded by the environment ministry and the 183 reported in 2010/2011.
In the communal conservancies an average of 336 leopard conflict incidents were logged per year. The report said that since 2011 the reporting rate of problem leopard removal by freehold farmers had declined by 5% to 45%.
“Ensuring that livestock and game losses were offset by economic incentives such as tourism and trophy hunting was shown to have a direct link to increased tolerance to leopard presence and lower conflict levels.”
Between October 2016 and December 2018 respondents reported the loss of 3 977 head of livestock and game to leopard predation.
The highest losses were of cattle (2 294 head), with the Khomas Region showing the greatest regional cattle loss at 1 242.
The second greatest loss was of game (1 151), particularly in the Otjozondjupa Region (531). The Karas Region reported the largest combined sheep and goat losses (345).
According to the report, 342 leopards were removed between October 2016 and December 2018 from the 157 respondents’ farms.
The Karas Region had the highest average problem leopard removal rate at five per respondent, while Kunene had the lowest at 1.25 per respondent.
The majority of respondents utilised shooting and cage traps (82%) as their primary methods of removing leopard from their property. Respondents also stated that they utilised the opportunity to trophy hunt (12%) a leopard in response to loss of livestock and/or game. A very low number of respondents used hunting with dogs, gin traps and poison as a removal method.
“Of the respondents who stated the number of problem leopards removed, 50% did not apply to the environment ministry for a problem animal permit, 45% did apply for a permit and 5% did not answer the question,” according to the report.
It said that between 2005 and 2018 the environment ministry recorded a total of 1543 permit records for the removal of problem leopards from freehold farms across Namibia, while a total of 1567 leopards were removed.
The overwhelming majority of landowners (60%) shot these leopards, either by hunting them or after catching them in cage traps (67%). A small proportion utilised gin traps, hunting with dogs and snares.
Furthermore the report said that over 16 years (2001 to 2017), in ten regions across 75 communal conservancies, 5 718 incidents of human-wildlife conflict involving leopard were catalogued. The average number of incidents logged per year was 336.