Saving Spots, an initiative that seeks to protect Zambia’s magnificent wild cat species while preserving the rich cultural traditions of the Lozi People recently received the prestigious Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem Oriented Policing at the 31st Problem Oriented Policing Conference. Excitingly, this was the first time that a conservation or African-based project has been nominated as a finalist for the award.
The innovative and culturally sensitive conservation initiative was launched in 2019 in response to concerns about wild cat populations threatened by illicit hunting for their skins and is a partnership between the Barotseland Royal Establishment, Panthera, WCP Zambia and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Zambia. Saving Spots is based on a similar initiative called ‘Furs for Life’ that Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organisation, successfully established in partnership with the Nazareth Baptist Church eBuhleni in South Africa. Both initiatives involve the introduction of highly realistic synthetic fur garments, known as Heritage Furs, that replace authentic leopard, serval, cheetah and lion skins used in ceremonial attire.
The initiative has received strong endorsement from the Barotseland Royal Establishment who, as conservation pioneers, declared that Heritage Furs will replace authentic skins at future gatherings. Importantly, the project has been well received by the Lozi community and has resulted in greatly reduced demand for authentic skins. During the most recent Kuomboka ceremony in 2022 it was estimated that at least 70 percent of the approximately 220 paddlers on the Litunga’s Royal Barge were wearing the Heritage Furs. Encouragingly, recent research indicates that the project, alongside other wildlife protection efforts, has made a significant contribution to the stabilisation and recovery of leopard populations in the Greater Kafue Ecosystem.
This year’s Herman Goldstein Award was dedicated to His Royal Highness, the late Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta, who was instrumental in the establishment and success of the Saving Spots initiative.