SANParks says it strongly condemns the behaviour depicted in the images captured on video after a leopard had been euthanised in the Kruger National Park, and was then struck repeatedly by an onlooker.
“Such actions are contrary to the ethos of the organisation whose primary goal is to conserve biodiversity and act as the custodian of our wildlife,” South African National Parks said in a statement issued late last night, after the video went viral on social media.
According to SANParks, the man seen striking the leopard was a visitor to the park and not an employee. He can be seen hitting the leopard’s face over and over.
The leopard had been killed by SANParks last weekend after it attacked a Shalati Concession employee who was walking through the Kruger National Par on Sunday (17 July) on his way to work. This was the second leopard attack since 27 June, in the same area, and SANParks believed it to be the same leopard. “In line with SANParks’ policies and Standard Operating Procedures on the management of damage causing animals, a decision was taken to euthanise the leopard to safeguard human life,” said SANParks.
Last night, SANParks confirmed investigations are underways and statements have been taken from Rangers and other employees who were present.
“A small number of statements are still outstanding and will be collected,” said SANParks.
The dead leopard was being retrieved to be taken for a post-mortem when the video was filmed.
“SANParks has taken steps to positively identify all persons in the video and the organisation can confirm that four of the nine implicated persons are SANParks employees and three are Rangers. A further three individuals are 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 euthanised leopard was visiting the Park and is not a SANParks employee. SANParks is aware of his identity, and is taking legal advice on sanctions to be imposed on him,” said SANParks. Whilst it has not been confirmed, the man could be a relative of one of those who had been attacked. He appears to be known by at least one of the others in the video.
The State Vet’s post-mortem report confirms that the cause of death was from bullet wounds and not as a result of any other actions.
Based on evidence received so far, one employee has been suspended pending disciplinary action, and line management is finalising their approach with respect to other employees who may have transgressed SANParks’ policies and code of conduct. This process will be completed today (Friday, 22 July, 2022), said SANParks.
“SANParks once again states that the actions of these individuals run counter to conservation management and the ethos of the organisation. During the course of next week, a campaign will be embarked upon amongst all employees within the Kruger National Park to reinforce these values and ethics.
“The organisation commits to managing the outcomes in an open and transparent manner whilst respecting the requirements of all legislation pertaining to this regrettable incident. Management is aiming to have a final report completed by Wednesday, 27 July, 2022 which will make recommendations to the SANParks Board on how to ensure that such incidences do not occur again,” said the statement.
In an earlier social media alert update SANParks called on the public to stop sharing the video.