Wednesday November 20, 2019
Home World Conservationi...

Conservationists design Fake Leopard Skins in South Africa to Save the Wild Animal

Conservationists hope to expand their fake skin campaign to other ethnic groups and African countries where the leopard is incorporated into ceremonial attire

0
//
Members of the Shembe Church wearing leopard skins during their dance celebrations at eBuhleni, near Durban, South Africa, Jan 29, 2017.

At least 1,200 men in ceremonial attire danced at a mainly Zulu gathering in South Africa on Sunday, wearing a mix of hides of illegally hunted leopards and Chinese-made, spotted capes designed by conservationists to reduce demand for the real thing.

The phalanxes of dancers with shields, headgear of ostrich feathers and other regalia on Sunday evoked the proud traditions of one of South Africa’s main ethnic groups, as well as the piety of the participants, whose Shembe religious movement blends Christian and indigenous beliefs.

The event in Ebuhleni, north of the coastal city of Durban, also testified to an openness to change because roughly half the men were wearing fake leopard skins rather than genuine pelts, symbols of power because of the predator’s grace and lethality. In fact, leopards are vulnerable on a continent with a rapidly growing human population, their numbers diminished by habitat loss, illegal hunting for their skins and other factors.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

“It’s like abusing the animals if they’re hunted to get the real skin,” said 67-year-old Msoleni Manqele, who collected a manufactured copy of a leopard hide from a Shembe distribution office, which had in turn received a batch of fake pelts from the Panthera conservation group.

The white-bearded Manqele spoke in awe of the leopard, describing it as a “king of the jungle” that fights with its claws, teeth and hind legs. He said he knows leopards “personally” because he lives near a wildlife park, but acknowledged with a laugh: “I’m also scared of them.”

One dancer, Madoda Zungu, wore a real leopard skin but said he also had one of the fake samples, first handed out in large numbers by Panthera in 2013 after years of negotiations with Shembe leaders, some of whom were resistant to shaking up an old custom at the behest of outsiders.

“It’s very important to know where we are coming from. This symbolizes our tradition,” said Zungu, a municipal councilor. The leopard, he said, “is one of the animals that actually has got power in terms of the strength, in terms of thinking, in terms of doing and being a leader.”

Another man, Kholwali Nxumalo, said he had settled for a fake fur, but still hoped to buy a real one despite the expense.

While the replica pelts, called “amambatha,” have been distributed for free or a small levy, vendors near the dance site were selling real leopard skins for about $370, as well as the tails of monkeys, genets and serval cats worn by dancers, often around the waist. A few skins of cheetahs, another imperiled species, were also on display.

The imitation leopard skins, besides being a free or cheap alternative to the real item, are more durable in the rain. The mock versions generally look shinier and neater than their real counterparts, which need to be replaced after about a decade.

Learning about fashion was a challenge for Panthera’s “Furs for Life” project, which modeled imitations on a haul seized from a poacher and used a complex weave technology that wasn’t available in Africa.

“We took those skins, we photographed them, we then digitized them into the pixels that the machine needs and then we sent that into the factories to try and make it exactly as that original fur,” said Tristan Dickerson, the project manager. Dickerson also navigated the Shembe movement’s divisive politics, saying it was sometimes hard to tell “if you were speaking to the right faction.”

A permit is required to own a leopard skin, but authorities don’t crack down on Shembe dancers, mindful of cultural and religious sensitivities. Sunday’s pageantry followed a pilgrimage to a nearby mountain and is one of the group’s biggest occasions in the year, drawing followers from across South Africa, as well as neighboring Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

An estimated 1,500 and 2,500 leopards are killed annually in the region to meet Shembe demand for skins, and some 15,000 real pelts are currently circulating in the religious community, according to Panthera. There are fewer than 5,000 leopards in South Africa, a relative stronghold of the animal on the continent.

Conservationists hope to expand their fake skin campaign to other ethnic groups and African countries where the leopard is incorporated into ceremonial attire. The Cartier jewelry brand and the South Africa-based Peace Parks Foundation are major funders of the Panthera program.

Decades ago, only Zulu aristocracy wore real leopard skins, but more people took up the custom, partly because of growing affluence. Lizwi Ncwane, a Shembe leader, wants the prestige of a real pelt to once again be the exclusive right of royalty, with followers using the copies.

“We want to conserve the leopard,” Ncwane said. “But at the very same time, we don’t want to push people away from their culture and customary practices.”(VOA)

Next Story

Kenyans among Foreigners Targeted in South Africa Attacks

South African police have arrested 189 people following several days of fresh xenophobic violence in Pretoria and Johannesburg in Gauteng

0
Kenyans, Foreigners, South Africa
Looters at Marabastad, South Africa on September 2, 2019, during widespread attacks on foreign nationals and looting of their shops.

BY GEOFFREY ISAYA

Kenyans are among victims of arson, looting and physical attacks in the ongoing xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Kenyans

Kenyan High Commissioner to South Africa Jean Kamau on Wednesday confirmed that several Kenyans had been attacked in Gauteng Province.

South African police have arrested 189 people following several days of fresh xenophobic violence in Pretoria and Johannesburg in Gauteng as well as in other cities.

At least five people have been killed during the sporadic violence against foreign-owned businesses.

Kenyans, Foreigners, South Africa
Kenyans are among victims of arson, looting and physical attacks in the ongoing xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Pixabay

INCIDENTS

Ms Kamau has asked Kenyans living and running enterprises in the troubled regions to cooperate with the police and report all incidents.

“The Kenya High Commission has since reached out to the affected individuals and encouraged them to respond to the instructions and calls by the South African police to report and open files regarding all [incidents],” a statement from the ambassador based in Pretoria reads.

“Kenyan community members in South Africa are asked to ensure that they work with their local diaspora leaders to monitor the situation and take measures to safeguard their security. All must remain vigilant and aware of their environment,” Ms Kamau added.

Also Read- New York’s Worst Measles Epidemic in Nearly 30 Years Officially over After Months of Emergency Measures

‘STOP IMMEDIATELY’

Sporadic violence against foreign-owned stores and enterprises has a long history in South Africa, where many locals blame immigrants for high unemployment.

The authorities have been struggling to contain a nationwide surge of anti-foreigner sentiment that flared up in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Mobs descended on business hubs and townships in various parts of the country, looting dozens of shops and torching trucks driven by foreigners.

Kenyans, Foreigners, South Africa
Kenyan High Commissioner to South Africa Jean Kamau on Wednesday confirmed that several Kenyans had been attacked in Gauteng Province. Pixabay

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a video address broadcast on Twitter, said the attacks are “something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa.”

“I want it to stop immediately,” he said, adding that the violence had “no justification.”

REACTIONS

Nigeria has summoned its South African ambassador to express “displeasure over the treatment of her citizens” and said it would dispatch a special envoy.

Also Read- Online Food Aggregators Cannibalising Dine-in Restaurants, Says Study

Zambia has cancelled an international friendly football match which was slated for Lusaka next weekend against South Africa.

African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki condemned the violence “in the strongest terms” but said he was encouraged “by arrests already made by the South African authorities”.