The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) recently had to respond to a call to shoot a male leopard that was reported to have killed livestock in the rural village of Seville B otherwise known as Makeripeni close to the Manyeleti Nature Reserve boundary.

The decision to shoot the leopard was our last resort as multiple attempts were made by our staff to catch the leopard. This process was conducted under very difficult and challenging conditions. Following the leopard’s tracks, it became evident that the leopard had already infiltrated the village and killed several goats, pigs and a dog and it was becoming aggressive and posed great danger to the nearby community members.

The loss of any animal is tragic and it is important to emphasize the conditions under which our conservationists work to ensure that we rescue the animals while at the same time they safeguard human lives. We are saddened by this act, however, we applaud the community members for working with us in ensuring the matter was handled with their support.

A necropsy was conducted by the State Veterinarians and found that the leopard was in poor condition possibly as a result of a broken canine tooth. It was further discovered that the leopard was blind in the right eye. No diseases were found in the blood smears or organs which may have contributed to its poor condition. It seems as though the leopard was probably pushed out of his territory.

During the search operation conducted by our Field Rangers, it was reported that there were tracks of a single poacher who was poaching with dogs entering and exiting the reserve near the Seville B area. A half an Impala carcass was also found at a nearby house occupied by a well-known poacher while searching for the leopard. A case of illegal possession on dead wild game has been opened against him at the Mhala Police station.

It is important to further indicate that the poacher was not in the Sabi Sands Wildtuin (SSW), but had been illegally hunting in the Manyeleti Nature Reserve. At this stage there was no evidence that the poacher had stolen the carcass from the leopard. We would further like to indicate that the statements that the leopard followed a poacher back to the village is completely unfounded and totally unlike a typical leopard behaviour.

As the MTPA we will continue with our efforts to save and conserve although at times serving human lives become a priority when dangerous animals are at the loose.

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