AGE: (2021) 13 years
REASON FOR CAPTIVITY: Cannot be set free for she was hand-raised and has now become too habituated. Tame leopards that are released back into the wild can be very dangerous, for they lose their natural fear of man.
Lewa is one of our leopards at AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre.
LEWA – MEANS BEAUTIFUL IN SWAHILI. LEWA, was 19 months old when she arrived at the AFRICAT North’s Carnivore Care Centre. Lewa was born by emergency ‘Caesarean section’, when her mother was shot by trophy hunters on a farm in north-western Namibia. The hunters were admiring their trophy when they noticed her belly moving; this female leopard was close to giving birth when she was killed. The farmer slit open her belly and saved the lives of 2 tiny cubs, one male and one female. The male was raised on another farm, approximately 60 km away. Lewa was taken good care of by the farmer and his wife. She bonded with the family, living in their home and romping in the garden with the other pets. Lewa grew fast and soon, instinctively, she began testing her nocturnal hunting skills. A variety of rodents as well as the farmer’s goats became her prey. As she gained more confidence, Lewa would leave the safety of her home and spend more time in the bush, returning when food was scarce.
When Lewa was approximately 12 months old, she would disappear for extended periods. The farmer and his family feared that she may be shot by the neighbours as she had become a clever hunter and could kill larger mammals such as calves, adult sheep and goats. AfriCat was called for advice: the farmer did not wish her removed, but realised that her life may be threatened if she remained on livestock farms.
AfriCat encourages farmers to tolerate the resident carnivores on their farms as removing them creates a vacuum, inviting newcomers to fill the vacant territories. Lewa was, however, an exception as she had become habituated, i.e. had gotten so used to humans that she had lost the natural fear of and respect for humans. Had we not intervened, Lewa would have been shot, trapped or poisoned for her stock raiding habits.