Big cat trade a killer
Johannesburg - The legal and illegal trade of leopards and cheetah in South Africa is impacting on the two species' populations, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) said on Monday.
The EWT arranged a workshop last year to determine whether current hunting quotas for leopards and the lack of hunting quotas for cheetah were justified, manager for EWT's carnivore conservation programme Kelly Marnewick said in a statement.
"The legal trade of cheetah in South Africa is poorly regulated with some so-called ‘breeding centres’ sourcing their animals from the wild.
"The trade in live cheetah in South Africa is fraught with irregularities and loop holes in the permitting system," she said.
South Africa did not have a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) quota for cheetah trophies. However, wildlife ranching and trophy hunting industries, are calling for that to change.
The workshop had to assess whether a Cites quota for cheetah would be justified.
Cites, is an international treaty drawn up in 1973 to protect wildlife against over-exploitation.
"The largest part of South Africa’s cheetah population occurs outside protected areas on privately owned cattle and wildlife ranches and as a result, conflict with landowners is common," Marnewick said.
"Little is known about the status and growth trends of the cheetah population in South Africa and the legal trade in live animals appears to be a major threat to cheetah survival."
Both species listed are on Cites, which states that trade in leopard and cheetah was permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
Leopard had a quota of 150 trophies in South Africa. Marnewick said ETW supported the on going retention of the quota.
She said it was inadvisable to issue a quota for the cheetah at this time as there was inadequate knowledge of the population size and trends.
"...Quota for trophy hunting of cheetah should not be issued until problems associated with the trophy hunting of leopards are resolved."
Marnewick said the carnivore conservation programme and the South African National Biodiversity Institute were implementing a project to asses the scale and impact of how cheetah and leopards' body parts are used.