Spotty data: Managing international leopard (Panthera pardus) trophy hunting quotas amidst uncertainty

Arie Trouwborst*, Andrew J. Loveridge, David W. Macdonald

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Leopard (Panthera pardus) conservation has a strong international dimension. Hunting trophy export quotas established for African range states under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are a case in point. We test these quotas, and the methods for their establishment, against the benchmark of the general principles of precaution, sustainable use and adaptive management. The various national approaches and the CITES regime condoning them largely fail this test. For decades, CITES bodies have endorsed apparently arbitrary quotas lacking robust scientific bases, without regular adjustment. Thus, the quotas have been inadequately performing their assigned function within the Convention's framework. The way in which the CITES leopard quota regime has been operating is fundamentally at odds with the principles of sustainable use, precaution and adaptive management. To remedy this, we offer recommendations on how to embed a science-based, sustainable, precautionary and adaptive approach to quota-setting within the CITES system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-278
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Environmental Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • leopard
  • quotas
  • trophy hunting
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
  • precautionary principle
  • approach
  • adaptive management

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