SCI Foundation is working with our partners at the Namibia Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA) to conduct the first comprehensive leopard census since 2011. Many who do not understand the need for sustainable use wildlife management have used this data void to create the impression that leopard populations are on a steep decline throughout southern Africa. This has caused many southern African countries to feel pressured to stop leopard hunting, despite the overwhelming evidence that hunting is helping their conservation. It is our firm belief that to conserve large carnivores, it is necessary to understand their abundance.
The Namibia Leopard Census Project will conduct the census utilizing 50 dual camera trap locations. In addition, the collection of 400 questionnaires will help researchers gather information on carnivore presence and distribution, livestock and game losses, and actions taken by farmers. To date, 310 of the target 400 questionnaires have been collected. Namibian landowner and farmer response has been overwhelmingly positive, as they are very eager to complete and submit questionnaires as well as leopard photos of their own.
The need for this project is not only due to a lack of current data, but also because dramatic livestock losses have been reported in Namibia. Despite the great strides that have been made under the conservancy movement, leopards are finding themselves in conflict with local herdsmen. Namibia suffered a severe drought between 2015 and 2017, leaving vast amounts of land parched and uninhabitable. As a result, local communities and wildlife are now competing for smaller tracts of farming and grazing land. However, this situation is not fully understood and requires a comprehensive survey to aid wildlife management actions.
The conservancy movement in Namibia has proven to be successful for both wildlife and humans, making it one of the greatest conservation success stories in the world. From Etosha National Park to the Skeleton Coast, wildlife of nearly every species have flourished under conservancies that now exercise stewardship over their natural resources. Since 1998, lions, elephants, cheetahs, cape buffalo, and other species have recovered very successfully. There is little reason to believe that leopards existing in the same area under the same system have not enjoyed the same success.
SCI Foundation remains dedicated to the pursuit of comprehensive, independent, and non-partisan science. This project aims to provide just that for the benefit of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), NAPHA, and Namibians who all care about leopards. In a landscape dominated by human activity, the conservation of carnivores faces unique challenges compared to conservation efforts in mostly uninhabited areas. The goal is to utilize this new data to provide recommendations for hunting activities and, more importantly, share this information with landowners and other stakeholders. A better understanding of leopards will contribute to resolving human/wildlife conflicts. Stay tuned for more updates as this project continues.
For more information on the project, or to contribute information on leopards in Namibia, please contact Dr. Louisa Richmond-Coggan on 081 2230610 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.