Travel & conservation company, since 1991
See how we earn 5 starsTrustpilot - 5 stars
×
SEARCH OUR STORIES
OR
SEARCH OUR SAFARIS
AND / OR

An in-depth look at leopard habituation, personnel training & tourism ethics

by

Jamie Paterson and Maxine Gaines

Monday, 1 August 2022

In May 2022, the news broke of the tragic death of leopard Hosana, one of the well-known leopards of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa. The announcement inspired a social media furore (to the point that #Hosana trended on Twitter). It also reopened several complex conservation/tourism concerns for public dissection, analysis and, on occasion, misinterpretation. For the authors of this article, with deep personal connections to Hosana and Sabi Sand Game Reserve , his death inspired a desire to tackle some of these issues head-on.

Hosana’s end at the hands of a counter-poaching unit (CPU) may have lit the fire, but much of what follows comes from years of observing, questioning and researching conventional beliefs in old habits and established practices. The concerns raised extend beyond Hosana and deal with complex topics like guide, tracker and field-staff training, habituation, tourism ethics, and human-wildlife conflict. Given the intricacy of the issues at play, we have attempted to address each topic thoroughly to avoid misinterpretation and false conclusions.

When named and known leopards are killed in conflict with humans, the automatic assumption appears to be that habituation must be at fault – often with conflicting ideas of what that means. We set out to investigate the validity of this assumption as systematically and scientifically as possible to avoid questionable leaps of logic, speculation and hysteria. We approached scientific organisations, experienced guides, trackers and reserve managers and sifted through multiple research papers to examine the question from every angle.

We found that, unsurprisingly, human-wildlife conflict continues to be one of the leading causes of anthropogenic leopard mortalities (Viollaz 2016). However, there is no evidence that habituated leopards are disproportionately affected. Nor is there any indication that habituated leopards are more likely to be dangerous to people or livestock in South Africa. However, we did confirm that there is a dearth of appropriate training for wildlife encounters offered to most field operatives and counter-poaching units across the country. This is a danger to the humans working within wild spaces and the wildlife they are trying to protect.

The following article makes continuous reference to the Sabi Sand Game Reserve (hereafter the Sabi Sands) in South Africa. This is not an indictment of the reserve. The area has one of the highest densities of leopards on the continent and is the “home of leopard habituation” as we know it. It is an invaluable reference point for this discussion. Our conclusions are specific to South Africa, where national parks and reserves are fenced. While many of the issues raised could be applied to national parks, private reserves and private concessions in other parts of Africa, our research was region-specific.

leopard
Sabi Sands has one of the highest densities of leopards in Africa

Leopard habituation

Hosana’s death inspired considerable discussion on social media around habituation, rehashing a well-worn topic that is often debated with little appreciation of what precisely it entails. So what does habituation mean?

It is crucial to be pedantic here because, otherwise, far too much bad behaviour falls under the label of “habituation”. At its simplest definition in this context, we are referring to the habituation of leopards as the removal of the strongest feelings of fear and the desire to escape from safari vehicles (and their associated sounds, smells and so on). Repeated exposure teaches the animal not to be afraid.

Habituation should not be confused with either taming or attracting animals. We would argue that the regular feeding of wildlife by visitors (as often occurs in public campsites in national parks, resulting in aggressive “problem” animals) is taming or attraction, not habituation. When a wild animal begins associating humans or vehicles with a basic need (such as food) and loses all fear, that animal has been partially tamed. Similarly, driving too close to animals or interfering with their behaviour is not bad habituation; it is bad guiding.

When “done right”, habituation results in an animal that simply ignores the humans in vehicles around it and continues to behave naturally, allowing it to be viewed with minimal impact. From the animal’s perspective, it does not expend valuable time and energy getting away from people. The importance of this cannot be overstated because most wild animals are carefully balanced on a knife-edge of survival, and running and hiding to avoid vehicles only adds to this strain and distraction.

Leopard habituation was essentially pioneered during the late 1970s at Londolozi Private Game Reserve in what is now the Sabi Sands (Hess, 1991). Through the exceptional tracking skills and abundant patience of a few individuals , a kind of trust was established. It gave rise to generations of leopards comfortable with vehicles and established the reserve as one of Africa’s top leopard-viewing destinations ( Hess, 1991; Hancock, 2000; Kure, 2003 ).

Young cubs learn by observing their habituated mothers’ reactions, so tourist-filled vehicles quickly become nothing to fear. Thus, over time, the habituation process in a reserve with a long history of leopard viewing gets easier and less intrusive. However, these are wild animals, so nuances and variations are inevitable. Leopards have distinct personalities, and specific individuals (even those from the same litter) may either prove impossible to habituate or be extremely confiding. Habituation can also be specific: a leopard that will lie in the shade of a green safari vehicle may be extremely unsettled by a white car following behind it.

Bad impressions or experiences are remembered, which is why habituation requires that each guide work respectfully with each animal to reinforce the message that humans in vehicles are not a threat. Detailed observation of their behaviour is essential: “listening” to the animal, watching their body language, switching off the vehicle while they are alert or hunting, keeping a comfortable following distance and so on. The aim is to be an impartial observer, and habituation makes that easier. However, months of careful habituation work can be undone very quickly by a few insensitive guides (which we address at a later stage).

leopard
When “done right”, habituation results in a leopard that simply ignores the humans in vehicles and continues to behave naturally, allowing it to be viewed with minimal impact

The benefits of leopard habituation

Of the many threats to the planet’s wild fauna and flora, habitat loss has perhaps the most profound and far-reaching effects on species and ecosystems (Purvis et al ., 2000). In the face of inexorable human advancement, space for wild animals is ever-shrinking, and Africa is no exception. Ecotourism and photographic safaris have made an almost incalculable contribution towards mitigating this reality – providing a viable economic model to keep land in a (mostly) wild state and protecting wildlife in the process (Buckley, 2003; Buckley 2010, Balmford et al ., 2015; Mossaz et al ., 2015). There is no doubt that the presence of habituated leopards (and other predators) brings tourists to certain reserves to view them (Lindsey et al., 2005). How many visitors to the Sabi Sands travelled thousands of miles to see Hosana? There is an obvious relationship between tourism, the money generated from tourism and the ability to pay for conservation, buy and protect more land, maintain fences, provide jobs for desperately poor people and so on (Buckley 2003, Buckley, 2010).

The links between habituation and scientific knowledge are perhaps not as well known (except for the work done with the great apes). Yet the conservation of many secretive (and potentially dangerous) species hinges on this knowledge. Cryptic carnivores like leopards are challenging to study ( Balme et al . 2009 ), and scientific work on these species primarily relies on camera trapping and collaring animals. Collaring poses many risks to the animals in question ( Hayward et al. 2012 ), while camera trapping is far less intrusive ( du Preez et al. 2014 ). Regardless, collaring and camera trapping are limited in terms of what they reveal about the behaviour of the studied species. Habituation of leopards has opened our eyes to much that was hidden before (Balme et al., 2013): grandmothers adopting and successfully raising their grandchildren ( Balme et al. 2012 ), males tolerating adult cubs (Pirie et al. 2014) as well as sharing kills and mates with their independent male offspring. The philopatry of female leopards was revealed to guides by habituated leopards (Hess, 1991) years before being confirmed by telemetry studies (Balme et al. 2017; Fattebert et al., 2015; Fattebert et al., 2016). Through habituation we have been granted extraordinarily detailed insights into the secret lives of these beautiful cryptic cats. This knowledge is critical for conservation. Many assume that to conserve a species, we just need an understanding of population numbers and habitat and prey requirements. But behavioural science is crucial too.

A controversial example of how habituation can influence conservation decisions relates to recent leopard hunting regulations implemented in South Africa. These allow for male leopards of seven years or older to be legally hunted, provided you have the correct permits ( DEA 2018 ). The justification is that at seven years old, they are mature males who have likely sired cubs and passed on their genes to the next generation ( Balme et al. 2012 ) and are therefore expendable.

Every guide we have ever spoken to disagrees with the logic behind this. A seven-year-old male is only starting to establish himself as a dominant male with a territory. We know this because of years of habituating and following habituated males. Hosana was over six years old at the time of his death, and as far as we are aware, he has potentially only fathered three cubs that survive him. Two of these (the Nkuwa female’s cub and the Serengeti female’s cub) are still relatively young and very vulnerable to infanticide when a new male moves into his vacant territory. The other potential cub is a young male born of the Nkangala female. He is not entirely independent yet, and has a long road to travel before we can say for sure that he will survive and breed.  Without the knowledge that comes from careful and long-term observations of habituated leopards, we would have to accept the suggestion of seven years being a reasonable age to hunt a male leopard. Habituation provides conservationists with crucial information to advise the government on the ethical management of leopards management critical to the survival of the species.

Leopard habituation on foot

There is a fundamental distinction between habituating animals to people in vehicles and habituating them to people on foot. Truly wild animals are almost always human-averse. The only exceptions are wild animals on islands where human presence has been non-existent or infrequent over evolutionary time. Most unhabituated animals have an innate fear or wariness of people and will flee or hide (or, in rare circumstances, attack) when confronted by a person. Some of this response comes from recent persecution, but much of this wariness must have its roots in evolution. Humans are alpha predators and have been for thousands of years. Animals know to expect humans around manmade infrastructure (such as lodges) but respond differently to the sight of a person walking through the bushveld.

The upshot is that a wild animal comfortable around safari vehicles filled with tourists is not automatically relaxed with people on foot. However, in reserves in many parts of Africa, tracking is the only reliable way to locate leopards for the safari vehicles, so a slightly different desensitisation process is followed. Expert trackers follow tracks and find the animal. When the animal is sighted, the tracker and guide back away slowly to indicate that they are not a threat. The leopard may run initially but, given their curious natures, seldom moves far, allowing the tracker and guide team to return with the vehicle and drive to the spot where the animal was last seen.

As this process is repeated, some leopards gradually learn that people on foot come and go and do not represent a threat. This is not done with the intention of walking guests to these animals or fully habituating them on foot, far from it. Most reserves have strict policies against tracking cats with tourists in tow. Though young individuals may initially be curious and even approach or follow a tracking team, they invariably grow out of this behaviour. A wild adult leopard will move away from people approaching too closely on foot.

Hosana on foot

Jamie Paterson’s personal account:

During my time spent presenting live safaris for WildEarth on Djuma Private Game Reserve from 2015 to 2019, I believe that we as a film crew spent more time than was appropriate with Hosana on foot. I have spent months reflecting on this conclusion and seeking advice from those more expert than myself. We only started approaching him and his sister without the vehicle when they were just under a year old, but they would still have been at a highly impressionable age. It was not uncommon for us to spend extended periods sitting within their comfort zones.

Whether or not our actions contributed to his death is impossible to know and may even be unlikely. However, upon reflection, I do think spending so much time with him on foot had the potential to make him more vulnerable to anthropogenic conflict. This is my personal belief and one that is not necessarily shared by those who worked with me at the time. It is challenging to view objectively because Hosana’s death was, whatever the circumstances, a freak event. Like all adult leopards we had experience with, we know that he grew out of his youthful curiosity and began moving away from people on foot. Had he not encountered the counter-poaching unit (CPU) that day, he probably would have gone on to live a natural life with no harm done.

But in my opinion, the fact that Hosana began to behave differently as an adult does not mean that the lesson we instilled in him over the years (that people hanging around on foot do not represent a threat) was forgotten. To be clear, I do not for one second believe that this process would have made him more dangerous to people or even more likely to charge. But whatever the circumstances surrounding his death, the risk was always that if push came to shove (defending a kill, for instance), we had already shaped his natural instincts and responses to the sight of people moving into his personal space.

I raise this now not as a confession (a few thousand people watched us do it live) but because I feel there is a fundamental lesson to be learnt from this. I know that during my time at WildEarth, we as a guiding team strove to maintain a high standard of ethics and keep our impact to a minimum. We did not spend time with those cubs to exploit them for financial or narrative gain – the thought that we could be jeopardising their futures would have horrified us. We were exceedingly cautious about reading their behaviour, never frightening them and never venturing (or allowing them) too close. We experienced something magical with Hosana and wanted to share it with the world to build a connection between our audiences and a wild leopard. The circumstances all aligned – his mother was relaxed, he was young and male and curious, and so on. To my knowledge, no other leopard followed by WildEarth’s live safaris has been habituated to people on foot to the same extent.

We all have 20/20 hindsight, and I cannot speak for others, but I look back on my actions with regret. I know of guides who leave their trackers on foot with young leopards while at other sightings and those that spend their day off sitting with their favourite leopards. I am in no position to pass on instruction, but we (and the experts we have spoken to) cannot condone this. I hope future film crews and guides will remember this message when deciding how to view an individual animal on foot, particularly a relaxed predator. We must constantly remind ourselves that we are not the only people that an animal may encounter on foot and that the animal may move away to an area where they are unknown and where their accommodating nature could be misunderstood.

leopards
Famous Sabi Sands leopard Hosana

Human-wildlife conflict

Human-wildlife conflict is an enormous topic and one that is largely beyond the scope of this article. Nearly two-thirds of leopard distribution in South Africa fall outside protected areas ( Jacobson et al., 2016 ). Leopards are highly adaptable, have a broad geographic range and readily adapt to human-dominated environments, making them a leading carnivore conflict species in South Africa ( Seoraj-Pillai, 2016 ). Snaring and the poaching of leopards for their pelts are also significant threats to leopard safety.

Leopards have probably been lurking around human habitation, largely unseen, for as long as there have been humans and leopards in the same place. In South Africa, there is no evidence to suggest that habituated leopards from private reserves are more likely to endanger livestock or people. All the studies we accessed on leopard livestock killings and other types of conflict come from research conducted in areas where leopards are unhabituated (example: Constant, 2014; Pitman et al., 2017; Seoraj-Pillai, 2016; Viollaz et al., 2021 ). Leopard attacks on people, which are rare, seldom seem to involve habituated individuals (we know of two incidents involving habituated leopards during our respective careers). Our research into historic leopard attacks all involved unhabituated animals (a reminder that we consider animals around camps that have been fed or associate people with food as tamed, not habituated). Habituated leopards are still wild animals – they may go on to kill livestock or injure people – but they do not appear to be more likely to do so because they have grown up in private reserves around people.

leopards
The authors question whether young dispersal leopards who are more comfortable around humans and lodges may be more at risk of being robbed of instinctive wariness

But what of the reverse? Does habituation make these leopards more vulnerable? Young male leopards disperse in search of territory. Some may get lucky and find themselves a territorial vacuum down the road from their natal range, but others must seek further afield. The longest recorded dispersal was a subadult male that travelled a minimum distance of 353km (194.5km in a straight line) through three different countries: Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa ( Fattebert et al. 2013 ). Thus the chances of a young habituated male leopard leaving the sanctuary of the reserve he was born in are higher than for a female.

Some young males simply disappear, never to be seen again. The majority will have died of natural causes – dispersal is a dangerous time in a young leopard’s life. However, the authors wondered if these young dispersal male leopards that have spent their lives near people and walking through lodges may be blithely walking into a far more dangerous world, robbed of an instinctive wariness that might have increased their survival odds.

Fortunately, neither expert opinion nor our research supports this conclusion. Balme et al. (2019) investigated the population dynamics of Sabi Sands and found that few leopards leave the reserve’s boundaries. According to their data, human factors have accounted for less than 2% of known leopard deaths in and around the Sabi Sands since 1975. By comparison, over half of all known leopard deaths in the Phinda-uMkhuze complex between 2002 and 2012 were anthropogenic, including legal destruction by farmers due to livestock depredation, snaring and poaching  ( Balme et al ., 2009 ). (It should be noted that the leopard population in the Phinda-uMkhuze complex has since largely recovered due to policy changes.)

This may not be an apple-to-apple comparison, but these two protected areas share similar habitats, levels of prey abundance and natural leopard densities ( Naude et al. , 2020 ).  As such, these are revealing statistics. They tell us that other more pressing factors are at play than habituation, such as fence quality, neighbouring-land use and even variations in local cultural perspectives of leopards. So, we can but conclude that habituated leopards –   like Hukumuri and others   – may still die in human-wildlife conflict because it is one of the significant threats facing leopards in South Africa today. But not because they are habituated to vehicles or people.

leopards
Another famous leopard, Hukumuri, was shot after killing livestock in a rural village near Sabi Sands

The importance of training

This is one of the most important conversations to come out of Hosana’s death and one that we believe to be far more pressing than the impact of habituation: the training of guides, counter-poaching units and field operatives for wildlife encounters. Guide, expert tracker and author Alex Van Den Heever recently informed us that over 90% of South Africa’s field rangers he has evaluated in tracking skills – those walking the bushveld daily – are not sufficiently skilled to manage wildlife encounters. This aligns with the authors’ personal experiences and is a deplorable state of affairs. It is incumbent upon reserve and park authorities to ensure that the teams employed to operate within their wild spaces are fully trained.

Approaching this topic without seeming to point fingers is nigh on impossible, and yet that is not the intention. This is not to say that every reserve and national park is employing poorly trained CPUs or field operatives. Those involved in counter-poaching operations put their lives on the line to keep our wilderness areas safe for the myriad species that inhabit them. We salute them and are forever indebted to them for being the soldiers in the war against poaching. However, if we as guides need to question our motives and ethics around habituation, and ask some tough questions, perhaps the CPUs and field rangers operating in these areas also need to question if they could do things differently.

Anyone (be they guides, trackers, CPUs, field rangers, security staff and even hospitality staff) working in a reserve or national park where wildlife will be encountered should be appropriately trained for such events. In places where animals are habituated, this training needs to consider that the wildlife may be more relaxed around people on foot and may not behave as expected or move off as readily if approached.

It is telling that over the many decades of living alongside habituated leopards in the Sabi Sands, incidents of conflict within the reserve are limited to a handful of isolated events. To the best of our knowledge (and that of those we questioned), no guide has ever had to shoot a leopard in self-defence, on foot or from a vehicle. That is as it should be. The number of leopard/human encounters on foot in the Sabi Sands is exceptionally high because, as mentioned above, they are tracked by guides and trackers for vehicle sightings. Tracking these cats often results in finding mothers and cubs and leopards with kills. In these circumstances, one would assume leopards might react defensively or aggressively, but this is rarely the case. This is due partly to the habituation process and partly to the skill of the guides and trackers at not provoking the animal, remaining neutral and appearing unthreatening.

Two vastly different forms of training are offered to those who walk in the bushveld. One approach is that of “sensitivity comes first”. Reputable guide-training facilities focus not only on rifle handling and shooting but also train guides not to provoke an animal to the point that it feels the need to charge. Through countless scenarios, training walks, shadowing experienced trackers, Big-5 pressure testing and unarmed walk experiences, guides are equipped with the experience, confidence and knowledge to approach animals on foot without threatening them. The overwhelming message in good training is that if an animal charges you, it is invariably your fault. You have to use your training to de-escalate the situation to ensure the safety of the animal, your guests, and yourself. Sensitive training emphasises that it is not the rifle that gets you out of a tricky situation but your calm assessment and reaction. The rifle is there for legal reasons, and we, as guides, must be appropriately trained to use it. But the focus is on respect for the animals and one’s ability to get out of encounters without provoking the animal to the point that it has no option but to attack.

Then there is the kind of training we will refer to as reactive training. The emphasis here is on rifle handling, speed and shot placement – how to react quickly with a rifle and put the target down as fast as possible. Unfortunately, reactive training is prevalent in the guiding industry and even more so for CPUs sent out into reserves to search for poachers. Maxine has trained guides in three African countries and has spoken to rangers in national parks and guides in Botswana and Zimbabwe – their training follows an almost identical approach. Some reserves and countries still require that you provoke an elephant or buffalo to charge and then shoot it as part of your training to be a guide (ZPGA 2022 ). During their careers as guides, both authors have attended “dangerous game” workshops and training sessions for rangers and guides that focus mainly on shot placement and rifle handling skills over reading an animal’s behaviour and making appropriate choices. The rifle instinctively becomes the first resort, the best defence against wild animals. There is a disconnect here, and we believe the ecotourism industry, particularly in Southern Africa, needs to evolve beyond this.

Naturally, CPUs need specialised training to face the very real threat of armed poachers. Walking with wildlife can be dangerous, and we acknowledge that there may be instances where there is no choice but to shoot an animal. There is an undeniable need for secrecy around how CPUs are trained. We are also aware that in many instances, CPUs are armed with low-caliber weapons intended for human encounters, and not for large animals (though this arguably increases the need for a sensitive approach to animal behaviour). T here is no excuse for sending poorly trained (for wildlife encounters) teams out into the wild to endanger their own lives and those of the animals they encounter. We see no reason why the knowledge and experience of expert trackers, guides, field rangers and CPUs could not be shared to the benefit of all parties.

Van den Heever reports that Tracker Academy has started a new training programme aimed in part at addressing these concerns. The academy’s Rhino Guardians programme will equip field rangers with the skills necessary to improve tracking competence, dealing with potentially dangerous animals on foot, and bushcraft.

Ethics of the guides

This is a well-established topic, and we can add little new except to re-emphasise the importance of self-reflection as a guide. Many guides unfortunately lack the humility to understand that tourists come to Africa to see the animals, not the guide. Thus instead of making the wilderness the focus of the safari, they selfishly promote themselves at the expense of the wildlife. These are the “bad” guides tip chasers and attention-seekers with little genuine respect for the wild  and this will only be exacerbated by the appeal of transient social media fame. Nothing we say is likely to change that. It is up to the reserve management and guiding teams to weed out these insensitive guides and either offer further training or dismiss them. In the best reserves, this does happen. In others, it does not, and the same mistakes are repeated again and again.

However, the truth is that even good, sensitive guides may find that certain boundaries can be hard to gauge because there is no one-size-fits-all instruction manual for ethical guiding. This is why regularly evaluating one’s choices and having open discussions is vital – ask questions of yourself and others. We spoke at the start of established practices – some are tried, tested and correct. But our knowledge of what is and is not appropriate is constantly evolving, and the best guiding teams adopt new ethical practices (like using spotlight filters, for example) when new evidence is presented. Trophy hunting may be rightly subject to considerable scrutiny, but there is no reason why the ecotourism industry which also has a significant ecological impact should be given a free pass.

Final thoughts

These questions and conversations are perhaps not new to those who have spent a lifetime discussing them around the fire in guiding and reserve management circles. However, they are important ones to continue addressing. They speak to the responsibilities of private reserves and “ecotourism”/photographic safaris and the role of the potentially lucrative tourism industry in conservation. Left unaddressed, deaths of animals such as Hosana leave room for misunderstanding and feed the growing cynicism directed at management teams of conservation areas.

We are gravely concerned by the apparent lack of training offered to guides, field operatives and CPUs that we expect to risk their lives to keep our wildlife safe. This is a recipe for future tragedies, human and animal alike.

Had we the time and tools to quantify the benefits and drawbacks of habituation (correctly understood and defined), there is no rational doubt that the benefits would outweigh any potential negatives by a substantial margin in the South African context. To reiterate, the Sabi Sands is home to one of the highest densities of leopards in Africa – higher than comparable habitats in neighbouring Kruger National Park (L Smythe, personal communication). Incidents of conflict within the reserve or in neighbouring villages (that we are aware of) are low compared to the neighbouring Kruger National Park and other regions with wild, unhabituated leopards.

Among the deluge of tributes to Hosana, we have seen a few scoff at the fuss made of this “named celebrity” leopard. We know the many arguments against naming wild animals – they have been debated to death and are largely moot in today’s world. But the impact of this one leopard, whose life was broadcast across the planet, cannot be overstated. He inspired a passion for wildlife across generations, cultures and continents. He brought people who otherwise might never have considered a safari, to Africa. He also brought Africa to those for whom travel was an impossibility.  He taught us so much about leopard life. Human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss continue to be the two greatest threats to Africa’s wildlife and wild spaces. Hosana’s death should serve as a stark reminder of this. While questions around habituation and guiding practices will always be critical discussion points, we cannot lose sight of the fact that leopards (and Africa’s wild spaces) face other, far graver threats.

The authors would like to thank the following individuals for their invaluable assistance and guidance in compiling this article: Alex Van Den Heever, Dr Lucy Smythe, James Hendry, Dr Julien Fattebert and James Richard.

References (some are available through a paywall)

Balme, G.A., Hunter, L.T. and Slotow, R.O.B., 2009. Evaluating methods for counting cryptic carnivores . The Journal of Wildlife Management , 73(3), pp.433-441.

Balme, G. A., Slotow, R. and Hunter, L. T. B. 2009. Impact of Conservation Interventions on the Dynamics and Persistence of a Persecuted Leopard (P anthera pardus) Population, Biological Conservation , 142(11), pp. 2681–2690

Balme, G., Hunter, L. and Britz, N.D.W., 2012. A case of offspring adoption in leopards, Panthera pardus . South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 42(1), pp.63-66.

Balme, G. A., Hunter, L., & Braczkowski, A. R. (2012). Applicability of age-based hunting regulations for African leopards . PloS one, 7(4), e35209.

Balme, G.A., Batchelor, A., de Woronin Britz, N., Seymour, G., Grover, M., Hes, L., Macdonald, D.W. and Hunter, L.T., 2013. Reproductive success of female leopards Panthera pardus: the importance of top‐down processes. Mammal Review , 43 (3), pp.221-237.

Balme, G. A., Robinson, H. S., Pitman, R. T., & Hunter, L. T. B. 2017. Flexibility in the duration of parental care: Female leopards prioritise cub survival over reproductive output. Journal of Animal Ecology, 86(5), 1224–1234.

Balme, G. et al. 2019. Big Cats at Large: Density, Structure, and Spatio-Temporal Patterns of a Leopard Population Free of Anthropogenic Mortality , Population Ecology , 61(3), pp. 256–267.

Balmford, A., Green, J. M., Anderson, M., Beresford, J., Huang, C., Naidoo, R., et al. 2015. Walk on the wild side: estimating the global magnitude of visits to protected areas. PLoS Biology, 13(2), e1002074.

Buckley, R., 2003. Case studies in ecotourism . CABI.

Buckley, R., 2010. Conservation tourism . CABI.

Constant, N.L. 2014. A socio-ecological approach towards understanding conflict between leopards (Panthera pardus) and humans in South Africa: Implications for leopard conservation and farming livelihoods. Ph.D., Durham University, Durham, UK.

DEA (2018) https://cites.org/sites/default/files/eng/com/ac/30/E-AC30-15-A3.pdf Downloaded on [1st June 2022]

du Preez, B.D., Loveridge, A.J. and Macdonald, D.W., 2014. To bait or not to bait: a comparison of camera-trapping methods for estimating leopard Panthera pardus density . Biological Conservation , 176, pp.153-161.

Fattebert, J., Balme, G., Dickerson, T., Slotow, R., & Hunter, L. (2015). Density-dependent natal dispersal patterns in a leopard population recovering from over-harvest. PLoS ONE, 10(4)

Fattebert, J., Balme, G., Robinson, H. S., Dickerson, T., Slotow, R., & Hunter, L. (2016). Population recovery highlights spatial organisation dynamics in adult leopards. Journal of Zoology, 299(3), 153–162.

Hancock, D (2000) A Time with Leopards. Black Eagle Publishing, Cape Town, South Africa.

Hayward, M.W., Somers, M.J., Kerley, G.I., Perrin, M.R., Bester, M.N., Dalerum, F., San, E.D.L., Hoffman, L.C., Marshal, J.P., Mills, M.G. and Nel, J.A., 2012. Animal ethics and ecotourism . African Journal of Wildlife Research , 42(2).

Hess, L (1991). The Leopards of Londolozi. Cape Town. Struik Winchester.

Higham, J. E. S. and Shelton, E. J. (2011) Tourism and Wildlife Habituation: Reduced Population Fitness or Cessation of Impact?,” Tourism Management , 32(6), pp. 1290–1298.

Jacobson, A. P., Gerngross, P., Lemeris, J. R., Jr, Schoonover, R. F., Anco, C., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Durant, S. M., Farhadinia, M. S., Henschel, P., Kamler, J. F., Laguardia, A., Rostro-García, S., Stein, A. B., & Dollar, L. (2016). Leopard ( Panthera pardus ) status, distribution, and the research efforts across its range . PeerJ, 4, e1974.

Kure N (2003).  Living with Leopards. Sunbird Publishing, Cape Town, South Africa.

Lindsey, P. A., Alexander, R. R., du Toit, J. T., & Mills, M. G. L. (2005). The potential contribution of ecotourism to African wild dog Lycaon pictus conservation in South Africa. Biodiversity Conservation, 123, 339–348.

Mann, G., Pitman, R., Broadfield, J., Taylor, J., Whittington-Jones, G., Rogan, M., Dubay, S., and Balme, G. (2018). South African Leopard Monitoring Project, Annual report for the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Mossaz, A., Buckley, R.C. and Castley, J.G., 2015. Ecotourism contributions to conservation of African big cats. Journal for Nature Conservation , 28 , pp.112-118.

Naude, V. N. et al . 2020. Unsustainable Anthropogenic Mortality Disrupts Natal Dispersal and Promotes Inbreeding in Leopards, Ecology and Evolution , 10(8), pp. 3605–3619. doi: 10.1002/ece3.6089.

Pirie, T.J., Thomas, R.L., Reilly, B.K. and Fellowes, M.D., 2014. Social interactions between a male leopard (Panthera pardus) and two generations of his offspring. African journal of ecology , 52 (4), pp.574-576.

Pitman, R.T., Fattebert, J., Williams, S.T., Williams, K.S., Hill, R.A., Hunter, L.T.B., et al. 2017. Cats, connectivity and conservation: incorporating data sets and integrating scales for wildlife management. Journal of Applied Ecology , 54, 1687–1698.

Purvis, A., Gittleman, J.L., Cowlishaw, G. and Mace, G.M., 2000. Predicting extinction risk in declining species. Proceedings of the royal society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences , 267 (1456), pp.1947-1952.

Seoraj-Pillai, N. (2016) Human-wildlife conflict in subsistence and commercial farmers in north-eastern South Africa . Ph.D., University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Stein, A.B., Athreya, V., Gerngross, P., Balme, G., Henschel, P., Karanth, U., Miquelle, D., Rostro, S., Kamler, J.F. and Laguardia, A., 2016. Panthera pardus . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e. T15954A50659089. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Viollaz, J.S., 2016. When human-leopard conflict turns deadly: A cross-country situational analysis . City University of New York.

Viollaz, J. S., Thompson, S. T. and Petrossian, G. A. (2021) When Human-Wildlife Conflict Turns Deadly: Comparing the Situational Factors That Drive Retaliatory Leopard Killings in South Africa, Animals : an open access journal from MDPI , 11(11).

ZPGA (2022).  https://zpga.org/areas-of-focus/education/ downloaded 20 July 2022


About the authors

Jamie Paterson, scientific editor at Africa Geographic, was born in South Africa and grew up exploring the country’s wild spaces at every available opportunity. On successfully completing her honours in law at the University of Cambridge, she returned home and dove headlong into the wilderness, working as both a research and trails guide. Jamie also spent several years as a wildlife television presenter for WildEarth, NatGeo Wild and SafariLIVE in the Lowveld of South Africa and the Maasai Mara in Kenya. A desire to tell Africa’s stories as they deserve to be told led her to Africa Geographic, where she now works as the scientific editor. Jamie is currently completing a degree in Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria.

Maxine Gaines is a wildlife biologist, with a BSc Honours degree and over 12 years of experience observing and studying leopards in the wild. Her undergrad degree was a BSc with majors in Botany and Zoology from Wits University. Maxine then went on to study a BSc Honours in Environmental Management through UNISA which she achieved cum laude. She has more than 12 years of experience observing and studying leopards in the wild, 10 of these at Londolozi Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands, Greater Kruger National Park. There, leopards were a particular interest and Maxine was one of three Leopard Specialist Guides for many years. After leaving Londolozi, she was privileged to work as a guide and trainer of field guides for &Beyond (then CCAfrica) in East Africa. She was able to add to her knowledge of leopard behaviour in this very different environment. She is currently a student again enrolled at UNISA for an MSc in Nature Conservation, with Predator Behaviour and Conservation being the focus of her studies.


 

To comment on this story please DOWNLOAD OUR APP. See details below.


HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF AFRICA GEOGRAPHIC:

  • Download our APP (mobile phone and desktop) to receive significant benefits including the best prices at Africa's top lodges, ready-made safari packages and networking with others like you. Find out more here.
  • Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to enjoy more stories like this. Subscribe here.
  • Travel with us. Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late and a few kilometres off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Search for your ideal safari here, or contact an Africa Geographic safari consultant to plan your dream vacation.