After being trapped illegally, a young leopard cub estimated to be around 6 months old was confiscated and handed over to a wildlife rehabilitation centre. The illegal trapping and trade in leopards remains a serious problem in South Africa.
Earlier this week we were alerted by a local hunter that a young leopard was on offer after being illegally trapped on a farm in Limpopo Province. The asking price for this young leopard was R13 000 ZAR.
Without any hesitation, we contacted the guy that was offering the leopard and told him that we were a “trophy hunting outfitter” and that we had a “client” that was willing to buy the leopard as a hunting trophy. We arranged to meet him earlier today after we have been to the bank to draw cash to pay for the “hunt”.
Some frantic telephone calls were made last night to arrange a sting operation with the conservation authorities that seems to be loath to assist us. Without mixing our words we told them that we were going ahead to find the leopard with or without their help and called for assistance from the South Africa police services that offered to help without a moment’s hesitation. Overnight however the conservation official in charge seem to have reconsidered and met us this morning as arranged.
One of our staff and a police officer posed as the hunting outfitter and his client while a 2nd vehicle followed at a short distance. As arranged our team met up with the professional hunter that offered the leopard up for sale and they proceeded to drive to the farm where the leopard was.
We knew that the cub had been trapped two days ago and that no conservation permits had been issued to the landowner to trap the leopard. No hunting permit had been issued either. However, we were informed the previous night that it was a “discounted” hunt and that because there was no permit, the animal had to be shot in the trap cage. The price we had to pay included the taxidermist costs to mount the leopard in a full mount. This the hunting outfitter had arranged with a “friend” who would not ask any question (or a permit) to do the work.
The conservation officials followed a safe distance behind the 1st vehicle that followed the hunter and kept in contact via 2-way radio. They arranged with the first vehicle to wait at a certain point for the outfitters and the “client” to view the leopard.
After the young animal was spotted in the trap cage and the hunt and payment was confirmed the offenders were informed that they were under arrest for the illegal trapping and intended hunting of an endangered species. At this point we were asked to dart the young leopard and ready it for transportation to the local police station where the hunter and landowner would be charged criminally.
Once we finished up there we went to a local veterinarian to have the young animal checked out to make sure it was fine and also to get a report from him for the police investigation that were to follow.
We are happy to report that the young animal was given a clean bill of health and despite it breaking its teeth on the steel cage, it would soon lose its milk teeth that will be replaced by a permanent set of teeth.
We would like to thank each and every one that made this possible; including the hunter that tipped us off about the young animal’s plight.