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Abstract: The concept of hybrid spaces, in which human and non-human animals share space, is an attractive one in theory but may be a challenging one to put into practice particularly where large predators are involved. This paper focuses on the relationship between humans and felids (in this case, the Cape Mountain Leopard) in a specific spatial context, that of the mountainous region of the Cederberg in South Africa’s Western Cape province.  The Cederberg is increasingly being reimagined for tourism and much of it is now reserved as wilderness.  A number of actors are present in this space, both human and non-human.  The human actors include local inhabitants who trace their roots back to the Moravian mission communities of the eighteenth century.  These Afrikaans speaking ‘coloured’ communities have historically been livestock keepers, thus their relationship with their sheep and donkeys is a significant one.  They regard this as domestic of inhabited, storied space rather than wilderness.  In this context, the efforts of conservation NGOs such as the Cape Leopard Trust to preserve the endangered leopards of the Cederberg are controversial locally with many ongoing unresolved issues (such as the lack of compensation for livestock loss due to leopard predation).  This study draws on in-depth interviews with livestock owners as well as conservation advocates and CapeNature officials to paint a picture of the current relationships in the mountains.  While private landowners are able to fence their properties, poor communities on mission land feel powerless and ignored. They feel that there is no recognition of the impact on their livelihoods caused by leopard predation on livestock. We ask: is there a way of protecting the domestic whilst preserving the wild? Livelihood adaptation might be one way out of the impasse, however this is more complex than might appear.


Shirley Brooks is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Environmental Studies and Tourism at the University of the Western Cape.  Her research focuses on the historical geography of conservation and land issues in South Africa.  She has a particular interest in contested spaces of 'wilderness'. Irené van Schalkwyk recently completed her Masters thesis (MA by research) in the same department.  Her thesis was titled: ‘Accommodating the wild? Leopard conservation, tourism and local communities in the Cederberg’.


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