This week Alan looks at a highly successful and ingenious project to rob poachers of their market for leopard skins.

Traditionally, the leopard’s spotted coat has been highly sought after in the illegal fur trade – the high prices for their skins making poaching these animals very lucrative.

So, there is a real market for illegal leopard skins. But when I say a market, I’m not referring to a Beverley Hill beauty swishing her way into a fancy cocktail bar. The biggest market is actually in Africa itself. And a scheme to challenge this market is now in full swing.

Furs for Life robs Poachers of a Marketplace

Peace Parks Foundation ( and Panthera ( have joined forces to protect the leopard and especially their skins. Furs for Life is an ingenious project convincing would-be fur coat wearers to buy faux leopard skin. It’s an initiative that, importantly, recognises the cultural values of local people but also the importance of protecting a species.

The project targets local groups in South Africa who use furs as part of religious celebrations and ceremonies. High-quality, fake leopard skin capes are offered as an alternative to real furs, and there has been much success in the scheme so far.

Cartier, a high-end brand, has even come on board with generous financial support to help bankroll the production of fake furs.

More than 5000 fake fur capes have been donated to groups in South Africa and the aim is for another 13,000 to find their way into local celebrations and traditional ceremonies over the next couple of years.

Social Media Helping to Save a Species

The rippling power and beauty of leopards have served as inspiration in the fashion world for centuries. But few people in the industry know that leopards, for all their cunning and guile, are the most persecuted big cat on the planet.

I Fake It is part of the faux leopard skin project and is a social media campaign spreading awareness and trying to change the perception around animal skins and particularly the threat to leopards.

What a great idea! Take the market away, and you take the incentive for poaching away. With all the bad news in Africa today regarding poaching, it’s great to have an initiative like this making a difference.

By Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

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