Animal rights activists and some conservationists in the Mopani region are outraged over a video of several SANParks employees repeatedly hitting a dead leopard. The leopard was euthanized last week after it attacked yet another concession employee in the Kruger National Park, whilst on his way to work.
The leopard, according to several sources within the park, was reported several times to the authorities but was only captured and killed after it attacked a second person. After the leopard was euthanized, overjoyed employees decided to hit the dead leopard, which according to them, gave them sleepless nights.
However, SANParks has now strongly condemned the behavior depicted in images and captured on video clips which have since been shared over social media platforms. “Such actions are contrary to the ethos of the organization whose primary goal is to conserve biodiversity and act as the custodian of our wildlife,” said the park in a statement.
Isaac Phaahla, the spokesperson of SANParks, told Bulletin that investigations were underway and that statements had been taken from Rangers and other employees present.
The incident arose after rangers euthanized a leopard on the 17th of July 2022, and the leopard was being retrieved to be taken for a post-mortem.
The leopard was shot just 30 meters away from where an employee from Shalati Concession, en route to work, was attacked by a leopard. This was the second such attack on a worker employed in the park since 26 June and was in the same area as the previous attack.
According to Phaahla, in line with SANParks policies and Standard Operating Procedures on the management of damage-causing animals, a decision was taken to euthanize the leopard to safeguard human life.
Phaahla also said that the park had taken steps to positively identify all individuals in the video of the staff attacking the animal’s carcass, and he confirmed that four of the nine implicated people were SANParks employees of which, three were rangers. Three other individuals were employed by concessions who operate in the park, and the last one is employed as an environmental monitor.
“The ninth person who was filmed striking the euthanized leopard was visiting the Park and is not a SANParks employee. SANParks knows his identity and is taking legal advice on sanctions to be imposed on him,” stated Phaahla.
“On the basis of the evidence received, one employee has already been suspended pending disciplinary action, and the line management is finalizing their approach with respect to other employees who may have transgressed SANParks policies and code of conduct.”
The state vet’s post-mortem report confirmed that the cause of death was from bullet wounds and not from any other actions. Phaahla also said that SANParks was committed to managing the outcomes in an open and transparent manner whilst respecting the requirements of all legislation pertaining to this regrettable incident.