Mercy killing: the adult male Cape mountain leopard which was put down after being found severely injured in a gin-trap on a Little Karoo farm.

Outspoken conservationist Dr Bool Smuts wants the Western Cape High Court to declare that CapeNature acted illegally when it culled a Cape mountain leopard on a farm near Ceres last year.

Smuts says a post-mortem on the leopard showed no signs of an alleged leg injury that supposedly caused it to attack stock animals and justified its being killed. It was a collared animal being used for current PhD research.

He’s bringing the court application on an urgent basis because he says he knows of four more leopards that the provincial conservation authority is considering culling.

He argues that the loss of every individual leopard is “a genetic disaster” because this Cape fold mountain population numbers fewer than 500.

CapeNature is the first respondent in the application and the other three are Western Cape Environment and Planning MEC Anton Bredell, national Environment Minister Edna Molewa, and the SA National Biodiversity Institute. Smuts explained that the foundation had signed a two-year memorandum of understanding with CapeNature in July 2010, in terms of which the conservation body would give it information on all damage-causing leopard incidents and the foundation would assist with all rescues, treatments and releases of leopards where possible.

But without consultation, CapeNature had ordered the culling of a male leopard in September.

The case has been set down for hearing on May 10. - Cape Argus