Panthera - Leopard Research

Panthera Partnership Leopard Research


Panthera’s Sabi Sand leopard research

Despite inhabiting the most widespread range of habitats, leopards are among the most persecuted big cats in the world. And while it’s often assumed that their conservation status is secure, illegal killings for their skins and other body parts, retaliatory killings due to human wildlife conflict and poorly regulated and managed trophy hunting severely impact their numbers.

Sabi Sand Reserves are home to some of the highest density of leopards found anywhere in the world. A global conservation success story underpinned by a long-standing flagship research and monitoring project, led by Panthera, as the best protected and best studied leopard population in the world.

A well-protected environment and sensitive game-viewing practices have ensured an extremely relaxed demeanour in the leopards in the Sabi Sand Reserve. The Sabi Sand Leopard Project uses the relaxed nature of these leopards and the depth of experience of the many field guides to convert leopard sightings from photographic safaris into high-quality biological data. Here most leopards are viewed at length and are individually identifiable, providing invaluable observations of individuals, their location and behaviours are collected daily. These data can then be used to answer ecological, behavioural and management questions and inform conservation at other sites where leopards are under threat.

Key Successes

  • The long-term research data helps to identify the processes that govern leopard population trends over years/generations and contributes to national and international population monitoring. This knowledge is applied both locally and throughout leopard range to assist persecuted or at-risk leopard populations.
  • Using recent advances in DNA technology, leopard life histories in the Sabi Sand are augmented with DNA extracted from field samples.Genetic profiling of these leopards assists with understanding relatedness and paternity, reproductive success, and contributes towards Panthera’s broader genetic research including forensic anti-trafficking operations.
  • This extensive flagship programme continues to lead Research and Management, using this unique long-term, comprehensive data.

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve, home to Singita’s founding Lodge, is home to one of the world’s best protected and high-density leopard populations.

Panthera Partnership Leopard Research

How can I support this project?

  • Your support will contribute to Panthera’s ongoing genetic research and DNA scat analysis underway in the Sabi Sand Leopard Research Project. 
  • Support the Furs for Life Project: Alternatively, you might wish to donate directly towards the Panthera Furs for Life project, providing a faux fur alternative pelt, supported by the Shembe church and traditional leaders, which has reduced the demand for leopard skins by 50%, saving 18 000 leopards that would have been hunted for their skins through this initiative. https://panthera.org/furs-life

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