- All projects
- Endangered Species
- Land use & biodiversity
- Fundamental biology
- Wildlife Diseases
- Wildlife as a resource
Darwin Initiative for Biodiversity Leopard Project
Sustainable Hunting of Leopards in Zimbabwe
This project is run in collaboration with the Zambesi Society and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and supported by a Darwin Initiative for Biodiversity Grant. The leopard is a top predator in African ecosystems, both within protected areas and on commercial and subsistence farmlands. However, it is widely accepted that leopard ecology and conservation status are not well understood and populations may not be as robust as once thought. Valuable and charismatic, leopards are economically important to many countries in Africa as a major tourist attraction, a flagship species for habitat protection and as an important trophy hunting species. As a sustainably managed resource leopards can contribute significantly to revenue generation and enhancement of livelihoods, as well as conservation of natural habitats throughout Zimbabwe.
There is concern that trophy hunting of leopards in Zimbabwe is not sustainable and may threaten the long-term viability of the species, even within protected areas. The annual trophy-hunting quota in Zimbabwe currently stands at 500 leopards per year, a figure that has seldom, if ever, been reached. This quota stands despite the fact that there are few reliable data available on the distribution and population density of leopards within the country, nor on the impact that trophy hunting has on population dynamics. Collection of these data will allow rationalisation of Zimbabwe's current trophy hunting quotas and inform future management, both in Zimbabwe and in the wider region.
The project has two key elements. Firstly it collects baseline distribution, population viability and behavioural ecological data on leopard populations aimed at assessing the impacts of trophy hunting and other processes on the conservation status of the species. Secondly, working closely with the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe and local and regional stakeholders, it will develop and implement a National Management Strategy for leopards, including training of National Parks staff to undertake monitoring and management.
The aims of the Project are to:
1) Undertake a national leopard survey to assess populations. Permissions are in place to survey 12 protected areas as well as a number of conservancies and farming areas, covering a range of ecotypes, rainfall zones and land-use types. There is scope for wider regional participation and use of these data as a predictive tool to estimate leopard population size in the region.
2) Measure the impacts of trophy hunting on leopard behavioural ecology and population dynamics in a hunted population. This detailed study will use radio-telemetry to identify and follow the fate of individual leopards.
3) Provide public information and disseminate findings and information.
4) Produce survey manuals and train approximately 25 staff from National Parks, 5 from the Rural District Councils and 5 from the Forestry Commission in survey and monitoring protocols.
Associated membersDr Andrew Loveridge
Mr Byron du Preez– Beit Scholar