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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Professor Russell Hill

Chase Grey, J.N., Bell, S. & Hill, R.A. (2017). Leopard diets and landowner perceptions of human wildlife conflict in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa. Journal for Nature Conservation 37: 56-65.

Author(s) from Durham


Human-wildlife conflict between carnivores and livestock and game owners is an issue of high conservation concern and has led to the global decline of many large carnivore species. Research has shown that carnivores are often blamed for higher levels of predation of livestock and game than actually occurs and this often leads to retaliatory killing. The aim of this study was to obtain information via scat analysis on the range of prey species taken by leopards in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa, and combine these data with self-reported accounts of livestock predation from local landowners to examine differences between real and perceived leopard predation. Results showed that despite landowners reporting frequent events of leopard predation of livestock and introduced farmed game across the Soutpansberg farming community, no evidence of these species were found in leopard diets. The most frequently eaten species by relative biomass were bushbuck, hyrax and vervet monkeys; in contrast, the farmers reported cattle and impala as often being taken by leopards. Despite sharing the landscape with domestic cattle and introduced game, leopards in the Soutpansberg do not frequently utilise these species as prey and instead focus their diets on wild species. Human-carnivore conflict can be reduced by overcoming the mismatch between actual and perceived levels of predation via landowner education, effective anti-predation measures, an improved government response to reports of livestock predation and potentially giving economic value to problem animals via trophy hunting.