A leopard conservationist starts a career in fashion to save South Africa’s remaining 4,000 leopards from being killed for their skins. Tristan Dickerson, who works for Panthera thinks that fake fur will make the difference in leopard conservation. He discovered that one of the main threats to the leopard population in South Africa was due to poaching for leopard skin, which is accompanied by illegal skin trade, used as ceremonial attire for the Shembe church.
This Nazareth Baptist chuch is only 100 years old, but already got four million followers. This chuch picked up the Zulu tradition of wearing leopard skin. It is a well-known fact that in this South African tribe culture chieftains used to dress-up in leopard skin, but Dickerson became aware of this major conservation blindspot regarding the Shembe church when invited to attend a gathering of this church in Durban. In one sitting he noticed 600 leopard skins.
Fortunately, authentic leopard furs are costly, and beyond the means of many Shembe followers. Therefore, the poor will dress themselves in cheap Chinese imitations. As you might expect from a leopard conservationist who, in this world of various threats to his beloved animal, must be creative and think of novel solutions to reach his goal, he came up with an unusual, innovative and diplomatic idea. Why not make high-quality, affordable fake fur accessible to Shembe followers? When not only the poor will adapt to this fashion, but the whole congregation, this will reduce the need for real leopard furs.
In the documentary To Skin a Cat Dickerson’s journey towards saving endangered leopards by producing fake leopard skins is featured. With his first furs due in July 2011, time will tell whether Dickerson can convince the Shembe church and its followers to change their habits.
So, To Skin a Cat is the story of one man fighting against the odds and thinking out of the box to save the big cat he loves. To produce the documentary donations are still required.
Watch the trailer of To Skin a Cat
(Source: website Panthera; website Mail&Guardian — 200 Young South Africans; website To Skin a Cat)