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Photograph by James Kydd

To Skin a Cat

New Film Explores the Disappearance of the Leopard and a Potential Solution

‘To Skin a Cat’ Trailer from Scholars & Gentlemen on Vimeo.

Solitary, cunning and elusive, the leopard exemplifies the mystery of the African bush. With increased levels of hunting, poaching and human encroachment, the leopard now faces the possibility of extinction. Filmmakers Greg Lomas and Colwyn Thomas tackle the subject in their film To Skin a Cat which is scheduled to premiere at the 2016 Durban Film Festival.

The culmination of six labor intensive years, the film reveals the increasing rate of leopard poaching in Africa and the recipient of a large number of the poached furs: the Shembe church. Following Tristan Dickerson, a leopard researcher and manager of the Furs for Life leopard program, To Skin a Cat delves into the desperate necessity for the elimination of this traditional demand for leopard skins which has been dubbed “a major conservation blindspot”.  The demand is so deeply and culturally entrenched that law enforcement proves ineffective in curbing it.

Instead of attempting to change the culture, an impossible task as reshaping centuries of belief requires much more than legislation, Dickerson advocates the production and distribution of high quality and low cost faux furs to the Shembe church and its members. Dickerson’s project may hold the key to greatly reducing the number of leopard poached for their skins.

Having coalesced the support of Shembe Church members, poachers, anti-poachers, tailors, conservationists and law officers, Lomas and Thomas decided to launch the film in an effort to raise as much awareness and backing for Dickerson’s project as possible.

Although wild leopards have always possessed a ghostly aura, they are listed as near threatened by the IUCN and their numbers are rapidly decreasing (the African leopard has lost over 40% of its historic range). The threat of the leopard becoming a literal ghost is very real. With the failure of many other conservation efforts, the new insights provided by To Skin a Cat may provide the changes necessary to save the leopard from extinction induced by man.

To Skin a Cat is scheduled to premiere on 18 June, 2016 at the Durban Film Festival in the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, at 20:00. Tickets are available from Computicket for R25. A Q&A session with the film makers and Tristan Dickerson will follow the showing.


Other screening dates are as follows:


23 June, 1400: Maharani Hotel, Durban

25 June, 1400: Musgrave Centre, Durban


Check out the Film’s Facebook Twitter Website

More Screening details are available from or





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