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Three leopards killed on consecutive weekends in Hoedspruit

According to Marine Servonnat, Ingwe Leopard Research project manager, the fatalities included two young males and a young female.

Three leopards were killed three weekends in a row in May on roads late at night in the Hoedspruit area. “Losing a leopard disrupts the delicate balance within the population. The young males were most likely still dispersing from their natal ranges, and in this vulnerable phase, they often cross roads more frequently, increasing their risk,” Servonnat says. “The young female’s death is particularly concerning as she may have had dependent cubs who would now be orphaned with no chance of survival.”

Furthermore, her loss represents a missed opportunity for population growth, as leopards can have a new litter every 1.5 years if the cubs reach adulthood. She says that losing three leopards in just three weekends is devastating, especially when these deaths were entirely avoidable. “Hoedspruit is renowned as a wildlife heaven, surrounded by reserves with incredible animals. However, living alongside wildlife requires responsibility from both residents and tourists.”

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“Speeding and failing to slow down when visibility is limited by roadside vegetation, reckless overtaking, and driving under the influence all pose a significant threat to wildlife and human safety.” She says these road fatalities will likely increase with Hoedspruit’s growing human population. “It is our collective responsibility to raise awareness and adapt our behaviour to ensure harmonious coexistence with the wildlife we cherish,” she adds.

The project depends on citizen scientists who track the movements of leopards. “This valuable data has identified two leopards of particular concern. The Medupi female and Ntsakelo male, both under three years old, have been observed crossing major roads.” She says the Hoedspruit community has been privileged to watch these three leopards grow since they were cubs. “Residents have enjoyed fantastic sightings and have come to know them on a deeper level due to their relaxed nature around people.”

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“This makes their potential loss even more heartbreaking,” Servonnat says. “I am actively seeking solutions. Discussions with the municipality regarding the possibility of deploying speed traps on specific sections of the road are underway.” She hopes that fines collected from speeding violations could be directed towards a dedicated fund to cover the costs of wildlife injuries caused by human activities, such as snares, fences, and road collisions.

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