Zulus Urged to Switch to Fake Fur

Biologist looks to save endangered leopards with synthetic pelts

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 9, 2011 5:42 AM CST

(Newser) – A leopard can't change its spots, but can South Africa's Zulus trade their traditional leopard-pelt adornments for a cheap knockoff? For the sake of protecting the country's dwindling population of the big cats, conservation biologist Tristan Dickerson hopes they can. Dickerson has created a fake version he says is as good as the real thing—only cheaper and machine-washable. He is close to finalizing a deal with the 5.6 million-strong Nazareth Baptist Church, which blends Christian and Zulu traditions, the Independent reports.

"I have used digital photography and imaging to produce an exact synthetic replica of a leopard-skin stole with all the dots in the right place," says Dickerson, who leads the world's biggest study of leopards. But he faces an uphill battle, he says, as leaders including President Jacob Zuma are encouraging the tradition by wearing real furs. "On the same day as Prince Charles visited a black rhino conservation project, he did not seem to bat an eyelid in the face of all the poached leopard skin he saw at the king's palace," Dickerson says.

Zulu warriors entertain Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla during their visit to Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in Ulundi, South Africa last week.
Zulu warriors entertain Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla during their visit to Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in Ulundi, South Africa last week.   (AP Photo/Ian Carbutt-Pool)
South African President Jacob Zuma, wearing leopard skins, sings and dances with his third wife at their wedding ceremony last year.
South African President Jacob Zuma, wearing leopard skins, sings and dances with his third wife at their wedding ceremony last year.   (Getty Images)
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