12 May 2015
Every year, more leopards are killed in the wild than any other big cat. The species has vanished from nearly 40% of its range in Africa and over 50% in Asia. And it is their beauty that is partly responsible. While leopards are also in jeopardy from loss of habitat and conflict with people, the demand for their skins is one of the main causes of their decline.
Even though the international trade in leopard skin is now illegal, it is still common for local communities in Africa and Asia to use real leopard skins for religious and cultural ceremonies, whether worn as capes or used for other traditional regalia.
"I was shocked to learn that these gorgeous animals are being killed for their beautiful skins and other parts for the illegal trade, and yet are so loved by the fashion world. We wanted to capitalize on the fact that people everywhere are wearing more leopard print than ever, but so few know what's actually happening to them in the wild," said Shania Twain, Panthera's Leopard Ambassador. "With Panthera, we aim to begin this conversation and generate awareness for leopards on a grand scale, while giving people something tangible to grasp, and engage in a fun and impactful way."
Watch the #ifakeit video
People can also donate to the campaign at ifakeit.org, where just $30 can support the creation of one fake leopard skin and save a leopard's life. The campaign first aims to generate 18 000 unique mentions tagged with #IFAKEIT on social media, to accompany each donated cape, as a thank you to the communities willing to fake it and to stop leopards from being killed for their skins. The campaign also aims to raise $300 000 for the creation of at least 5 000 new fake leopard skins to distribute to communities outside of southern Africa, and to support other conservation activities to protect leopards across their range.
Panthera's Leopard Program Director, Dr. Guy Balme, explained, "Panthera's Furs for Life Leopard Project is providing an innovative and real solution to a threat that is decimating leopard populations. Very rarely in the world of conservation do you see a resolution this simple and respectful of cultural and religious traditions that is so swiftly accepted by local communities."
Dr. Balme continued, "In just a few years, we have seen a positive and deeply-rooted cultural shift in the adoption of Panthera's fake leopard skins in southern Africa. We hope the #IFAKEIT campaign will help bring much-needed attention to the plight of leopards and help spark a movement that ensures the species, and not just the images of their beauty, remain long into the future."
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