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Remembering Leopards | An Inspiring Conservation Journey

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Remembering Leopards: An Inspiring Conservation Journey

Empowering Conservation Through Photography

Margot Raggett MBE gave up a career as CEO of a London PR company and came to Africa to follow her love of wildlife photography. Her plans changed when she was in Kenya, in 2014, and came across the carcass of a poached elephant. Deeply affected by this, Margot was determined to do something about it. She spent months persuading some of the world’s best wildlife photographers to donate photographs she could include in what she planned would be “the most beautiful book on a species ever seen”, the sale of which would raise funds for elephant conservation. The book, Remembering Elephants, was launched in 2016. At the time, Margot thought the book would be a one-off, but after the fantastic success of Remembering Elephants, Margot was inspired to push on and Remembering Wildlife became the collective name for the series of hardback coffee table books, with a new one produced every year. After Elephants, next came Remembering Rhinos, followed by Great Apes, Lions, Cheetahs, African Wild Dogs and then Bears.

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Margot Raggett on Remembering Lions printing press

Focus on Leopards: A Call for Awareness

This year’s book, Remembering Leopards, focuses on these magnificent big cats, that have been listed as vulnerable by the IUCN since 1986. Margot believes that showcasing beautiful images of these big cats will raise awareness of their plight and capture the public’s attention. “We need people to see what we might lose if conservation efforts aren’t successful,” she says, “photography is a great way to do that.”

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Image Credit: Vladimir Cech Jnr | Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) III

Insightful Leopard Facts

There are eight species of leopard – African, Amur, Arabian, Indian, Indochinese, Javan, Sri Lankan and Persian. Leopards are the most versatile and adaptable of the big cats, but despite this adaptability, their global population and distribution is in decline. Leopards have long been hunted for their golden fur as well as for their claws, whiskers, and tails. In addition, although they are widely distributed across Africa and Asia, habitat fragmentation and loss has seen their range reduced by 31% worldwide in the past three generations (about 22 years). The commercialized bushmeat trade has caused an estimated 59% decline in their prey populations across large parts of the African savanna. And human-wildlife conflicts have seen retaliatory killings by farmers or even attempts to exterminate them to prevent livestock deaths.

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Image Credit: Sebastian Kennerknecht | Sunda Clouded Leopard Malaysia

Did you know this about Leopards?

  • Leopards have a very wide habitat tolerance, occurring in lush forests, open savanna, rocky deserts, rugged mountains and dense bushveld. They even utilise urban areas in some parts of the world.
  • Leopard spots are called rosettes, and each individual leopard’s rosette pattern is unique, similar to a human’s fingerprints.
  • Leopards now occur in 63 countries across Africa and Asia, but this is only a fraction of the area where they once roamed. (They have always been absent from the Americas, Antarctica, Europe and Australia).
  • Studies show leopards consume more than 100 prey species across their range. They are the ultimate opportunists and will even eat insects when times are tough, though they prefer medium-sized prey around 10 – 40 kg.
  • Leopards are solitary hunters and can’t easily protect their kills from other large predators on the ground. Their extremely strong jaws and incredibly powerful shoulder and neck muscles enable them to drag their heavy meals up into trees for safety.
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Image Credit: Sascha Fonseca

Remembering Leopards: A Collective Effort

Over 50 of the world’s top wildlife photographers have contributed to Remembering Leopards and the book is a collection of 80 of their stunning colour images. This year’s cover image was taken by Mark Dumbleton. Margot says, “With their sheer beauty, aloofness and agility, leopards are coveted by photographers and safari-goers alike – there is something mesmerising about them that wins hearts the world over. And yet, because of human actions, the global leopard population and distribution is in decline and Leopards have vanished from at least 40% of their historic range in Africa and over 50% of their historic range in Asia. They are now believed to be extinct in 23 of their 85 original range countries. In addition to the threat of climate change and human-wildlife conflict, leopards also fall victim to the illegal wildlife trade – they are highly prized for their beautiful skin, as well as bones, teeth, and claws. I’m grateful to all the photographers who have willingly donated their work to this book and to raise awareness and funds. It is only through working together that we can win.”

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Image Credit: Mark Dumbleton

Not all of the photographers featured are well-known. Remembering Wildlife ran a photographic competition where around 3,500 images were submitted, from which 20 were chosen to add to the book. Friend and photographer Jany Addey from the UK was one of these competition winners, with her photo Leopard Leaps, and says “For me, it is a privilege to be part of such an amazing project. Leopards are my favourite animal and I love to photograph their beauty but also their movement and behaviour. To have one of my photos in this fundraising book was a photographic highlight which also helps to raise money for conservation”.

Jonathan Scott, one of the photographers who contributed to the book, says that over the years, leopards have suffered greatly because of demand for their pelts. “The leopard’s exquisite beauty has cost it dearly,” he says. “In the 1960s and 70s, as many as 50,000 leopards were believed to be killed each year in Africa to satisfy the fashion industry’s insatiable appetite for spotted cat skin garments.”

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Image Credit: Hannes Lochner

Impactful Contributions and Conservation

Jonathan Scott, one of the photographers who contributed to the book, says that over the years, leopards have suffered greatly because of demand for their pelts. “The leopard’s exquisite beauty has cost it dearly,” he says. “In the 1960s and 70s, as many as 50,000 leopards were believed to be killed each year in Africa to satisfy the fashion industry’s insatiable appetite for spotted cat skin garments.”

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Image Credit: Federico Verenosi

The first donation from Remembering Leopards has already been made, to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Afghanistan. WCS has been working to protect snow leopards since 2006, but because of the current political situation in Afghanistan, they’d recently lost the bulk of their funding. Remembering Wildlife has given them an emergency grant to both carry on and to fund the employment of eco-guards from local communities in Wakhan National Park.

Preserving Beauty for Future Generations

In the foreword for Remembering Leopards, Dr Luke Hunter, Executive Director of Big Cats Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, says something that’s very apt as a closing thought… “Remembering Leopards reminds us of what is at stake. When you look upon the glorious cats on these pages, be assured that it is not too late to save them. Don’t let Remembering Leopards become an epitaph.”

Support Conservation, Order Your Copy

To find out more about Remembering Wildlife and their projects visit the website link below. Each book costs £49.50 GBP (approximately $60 USD) and copies can be ordered at www.rememberingwildlife.com

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Article Cover Image: Ben Cranke | African Leopard

Stories From Sarah Kingdom