Cape leopard death brings species step closer to extinction

Cape leopard death brings species step closer to extinction
Published: 14 July 2019

A Cape leopard that died in a snare in the Western Cape struggled for several days before dying of dehydration. It is thought to have been one of only two leopards left in the Helderberg, and its decomposed body was eventually found by a cyclist on the nature trail.

Anita Wilkinson, of the Cape Leopard Trust, said its death was part of a global problem in which cheap snares were contributing to extinction risks.

"Snares are anchored cable or wire nooses set to catch wild animals, mostly for bushmeat or the illegal trade in animal parts of skins," she said.

They were illegal, but materials such as discarded wire fencing, telephone wire or baling wire were so readily available that the practice was "incredibly difficult to police".

A recent study by Oxford University found the worlds last breeding population of leopards in Cambodia had declined by 72% in just five years, largely due to snares.

'Similarly, pangolin-hunting in Central African forests had increased by 150% between the 1970s and 2014, with snares frequently used.

Wilkinson said snares are usually anchored to a tree or branch or laid down on a trail. As the animal steps into it, it pulls tight and "the more the animal struggles, the tighter it becomes", after which the animal dies "a slow and painful death" usually from bleeding, septicaemia and dehydration.

Philip Obermeyer, who owns the property where the Cape Leopard was snared, told the Sunday Times: "We are all very concerned. It is upsetting that it is a leopard. That would happen once in a blue moon. But even if it is a little duiker, we would be concerned that snares are being laid."

He suspected they were laid to trap animals as bushmeat, and that the culprits were "probably casual labourers who could access the land from neighbouring properties".

Although the leopard died on private property, it is near the City of Cape Town's Helderberg Nature Reserve.

The council's mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, said the council "deplores the wanton use of snares" and described them as "particularly cruel".



Acceptable trapping techniques

icon no trap The Cape Leopard Trust’s position statement on acceptable trapping techniques for carnivore research

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