DHL to deliver fake leopard skins to Shembe

2013-11-13 14:24

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Cape Town – A South African courier company will aid the distribution of fake leopard skins to stem the use of real skins in Shembe ceremonies.

DHL has partnered with US NGO Panthera to ship fake skins from manufacturers in China to South Africa under a pro bono contract that extends to May 2015.

“We are providing our logistics expertise and raising awareness of a complex issue through our own network and resources,” said Charles Brewer, managing director of DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa.

Over five million members form part of the Shembe church who wear leopard fur, or amambatha, as its customary ceremonial attire. A growing number of male Shembe followers now desire the skins.

Skins are traditionally passed down from generation to generation, but many new ones are the product of poaching.

According to Panthera President, Luke Hunter, the Shember community has welcomed the faux skins.

“To date 2 000 faux leopard amambatha or traditional shoulder capes have been shipped by DHL for our project,” he said, “the Shembe have shown they are willing to embrace the use of our high quality alternatives to real leopard skin”.

Shembe elder, Lizwi Ncwane, said “I have seen firsthand how receptive my community is to using these fake skins. Not only do they look and feel like real leopard skins, they also last longer”.

The IUCN has listed the African leopard as near threatened but Leopard Conservation Project CEO, Fred Berrange, says they are endangered according to the project’s independent research.

“The scary thing is that nobody knows how many leopards there are, one cannot even thumb suck,” he told News24.

Berrange said the main threats are poaching for skin, bones, trophies, and illegal hunting for financial gain.

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