Using fabric furs to protect wild cats in Zambia

Story originally posted on

Early in August in western Zambia, Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and the Barotse Royal Establishment of the Lozi People in partnership with Peace Parks Foundation and Cartier launched the Saving Spots project – an innovative and culturally-sensitive conservation initiative that seeks to protect declining wild cat populations using synthetic leopard, serval and lion furs, known as ‘Heritage Furs’.

Held annually on the Zambezi River in the Barotseland Kingdom, the Kuomboka festival (meaning ‘to get out of the water’) involves passage of His Majesty the Lozi King between palaces by barge. Historically, the King’s barge has carried approximately 200 paddlers adorned with ornate, full-length skirts or lipatelo made of nearly a thousand leopard and serval furs. Paddlers have also traditionally worn red berets topped with lion mane headpieces, known as mishukwe.

With the roll out of this new wild cat conservation initiative at the Royal Palace in Mongu, festival attendees received 200 Panthera-created synthetic leopard and serval fur lipatelo and 200 synthetic lion mishukwe, which have replaced the use of real furs and, we expect, will help to reduce the hunting of hundreds of wild cats across southern Africa where the species are severely threatened.