Conservationists in SA offer fake leopard hides

A member of the Shembe Church, dressed in tribal leopard skins and his son get ready for the pilgrimage.  (File, AP)
A member of the Shembe Church, dressed in tribal leopard skins and his son get ready for the pilgrimage. (File, AP)

Durban - Many worshippers at a large religious gathering in South Africa this weekend will wear leopard skins, seen as symbols of status and power. But some of the pelts are fake, reflecting an effort by an international conservation group to reduce poaching of the threatened animals.

The Shembe church of southern Africa, which mixes Christian and traditional Zulu beliefs, is expected to draw many thousands of people near Durban on Sunday.

The Panthera conservation group says it has donated more than 14 000 fake leopard skins to Shembe followers and that demand for real leopard pelts in the Shembe community in South Africa has dropped by 50% because of the campaign.

Panthera launched its "Furs for Life" project in 2013.

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