Significant Progress in Leopard Conservation Project

SCI Foundation’s supporters make it possible to amplify our important wildlife conservation, outdoor education, and humanitarian projects globally.

Our recent efforts since October 2022 have involved data collection in Botswana, centered on the management of African leopards. The leopard is an iconic species of the African wilderness and an aspirational big five hunt for many international tourist hunters. While leopard populations in the hunting countries of southern and eastern Africa are considered the most abundant and stable in the world, international conservation organizations have noted that improved large-scale abundance data would be crucial to ensuring the sustainability of leopard harvest and leopard populations. In response to these calls and acknowledging the importance of leopards to the hunting industry in Africa, SCI Foundation formally adopted our Dr. Ralph Cunningham leopard conservation strategy in 2020.

The first major project under this strategy is the ongoing effort to estimate leopard density for Botswana. The country has long been a model for successful conservation of African megafauna, especially elephants, but also lions and leopards. Historically, Botswana was also an important safari destination. Despite the importance of tourist hunting to conservation and community livelihoods, the country enacted a ban on tourist hunting in 2014. In response to urgent calls from local communities affected by human-wildlife conflict and loss of income from tourist hunting, this ban was lifted in 2019. Scientific data to aid in determining sustainable harvest levels for several species was urgently needed, and SCI Foundation stepped up to partner with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks on this project. Our goal is to provide quantitative estimates of leopard density across the entire country (which is approximately the size of Texas) by the end of 2024, a project scale that has never been attempted for leopards. However, with the support of SCI members and donors, we know it is possible.

Working with our partners we plan to survey 20-25 areas across all geographic regions and land uses in the country. Leopards are surveyed using remote cameras placed on roads or trails in a grid pattern. We have surveyed twelve areas so far with excellent results.

Our goal is to present a model for how science-based information supported by hunters can be a critical component of long-term conservation of big cats in Africa. Much like hunters in North America supported the restoration of species like black bears, wild turkeys, and white-tailed deer.

The Botswana project will wrap up by the end of 2024, but our work is not done yet. Our goal is to move our efforts to a new country in 2025, and expand to as many countries as we can reach in future years.

Backing from individuals like you propels our mission forward. SCI Foundation and Crispi boots have joined forces to help raise funds to help support this project and many more. For your donation of $500 or more to SCI Foundation, you’ll receive a pair of Crispi boots of your choice. Your contribution will not only provide you with exceptional comfort for all your hunting adventures, but your contributions will help us to continue our groundbreaking work in Africa, as well as support programs related to bears and other carnivores in North America, antipoaching efforts, research into management of wildlife diseases like chronic wasting disease, and the African Wildlife Consultative Forum.

Every act of generosity, regardless of size, truly aids our mission at the SCI Foundation. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to SCI Foundation this Spring. Your unwavering backing of our wildlife and wild lands is deeply appreciated.