Why Make This Film?
Leopard numbers are falling across Southern Africa. The reason? A massive skin trade, beyond the control of the law, feeding a demand from the four milion strong Shembe Church. By incorporating leopard skins into traditional dances, the Shembe are unwittingly bringing about the down fall of the animal they so love and admire. Remarkably this dire situation has gone unnoticed by conservation bodies and the public alike.
How long can we turn a blind eye to a conservation disaster because it is a cultural norm?
How do we respect and preserve traditions and critical cultural practices, while simultaneously preserving our wildlife?
One man may hold some of the answers. Leopard researcher Tristan Dickerson has spent his life studying leopards in the wild. In shifting his observations and inquiries to the Church, Dickerson believes he has uncovered a solution that will benefit both parties: fake fur.
Leopard skins are expensive and strain the finances of most Shembe members. Cheap leopard skin knock-offs are regularly used while members save the R3000 required for the real thing. Dickerson believes that if he can introduce a high quality, realistic and cheap fake fur he will radically reduce the pressure on the country’s leopard populations. His mission is two pronged. 1. He must either create or source the perfect fur 2. He must convince the Shembe Church’s powerful leader to endorse his plan.
This is his story to save the leopard.