The Ministry of Environment in South Africa has set the leopard hunting quota to zero for the year 2016. It is a temporary ban at present and the time will be used to establish the number of leopards in South Africa and to assess their endangered status.

Leopards are found outside of protected areas and often in remote areas so it's important to find out a baseline on the population. They are mainly nocturnal and are a secretive animal which makes them hard to spot in the bush. This has made an accurate count of the animals difficult in the past. The Wilderness Foundation was quoted by Africa Geographic as saying that there needs to be “high quality” research on population numbers.

Until numbers are known, the Ministry feels that hunting should not be allowed to take place. The #News has been greeted with enthusiasm by wildlife groups, but Kelly Marnewick of the Environmental Wildlife Trust did point out that trophy hunting record keeping in South Africa is not up to scratch. Leopards are one of the big five of Africa’s game species, along with elephants, lions, rhinos, and buffalo. Hunting the big five generates thousands of dollars in revenue every year.

Apart from trophy hunting, threats to leopards come from persecution by livestock farmers, conflict with humans who often set out poison bait for them in certain parts of Africa, and a loss of wild land in the face of human settlement expansion. Animal rights groups believe that there is some mismanagement of hunting in Africa, and it is known that gin traps are popular with poachers as there is a demand for leopard fur.

Human persecution has been ongoing since the days of the early European settlers in Africa and persists in some communities.  In 2014, a collared leopard was shot in the Cape Province by a farmer. The irony of that incident was that the leopard was being tracked by Landmark Foundation, who works with farmers to offer compensation for livestock losses to apex predators. Africa Geographic reported at the time that this was the 48th leopard that had died from persecution and conflict with humans in the area where Landmark was operating.

Hunting operators will hopefully support the temporary restrictions on leopard hunting so a scientific baseline of the population can be established. #Buzz