In 1962, the first lady of the United States Jackie Kennedy, probably “one of the most photographed women” of his time, caused a sensation by sporting a majestic leopard fur coat, made by his personal stylist.
If the coat of the feline has been worn since Antiquity as a symbol of power, this outing has aroused unparalleled enthusiasm in the world of fashion. “An estimated 250,000 leopards were killed to satisfy consumers who wanted to look like Jackie,” Explain The New Yorker. The leopard appeared in 1973 on the list of endangered species established by the American government.
If the leopard population is difficult to assess today, the trend is declining, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The reference NGO on the protection of biodiversity recently classified the leopard as “vulnerable”, i.e. the first level of threatened species. Some subspecies are also the subject of special conservation or reintroduction programs. However, the taste of fashion victims leopard rosettes have not been denied over the years, and fur clothes have been replaced by printed patterns.
The American monthly therefore became interested in an innovative idea to finance the safeguarding of the feline. Caroline Good Markides and her colleagues from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, UK, published an academic paper in 2017 in which they argued for the establishment of “animal copyrights”.
“When a song or a creation is used to promote a product or an event, we pay rights to the creator” , reports the magazine.
“What if a royalty was due to an endangered species each time its image or attributes are taken for commercial purposes?”
In the case of big cats, researchers have even estimated that applying a tax of one tenth of a pound cent for each egg stamped “British Lion” – the label, materialized by an effigy of a lion, which guarantees the quality of eggs in the United Kingdom – would release an annual fund of some 10.5 million pounds, or 12.5 million euros. A sum that could, for example, be used to recruit guards in nature reserves.
“Hijacking” the popularity of the leopard print
Beyond that, researchers find that the leopard pattern is a fashion constant, both in haute couture and in inexpensive ready-to-wear. “To what extent do those who adore the leopard motif today associate their aesthetic choice with wild animals, which are increasingly rare to roam Africa and Asia?” The authors argue that its ubiquity would unconsciously instill in the minds of consumers the idea that the animal is also present in large numbers in nature.
“For wildlife advocates, argue Caroline Good Markides and her colleagues, the challenge is to find ways to divert the popularity of the leopard pattern, at least in part, to benefit the species from which it was taken.”