Missing studied conservation at a college in Pretoria and in February was offered a job with the Landmark Foundation, which is working to prevent the decimation of South African predators.
Missing travels frequently between Port Elizabeth and Hermanus, meeting farmers to convince them that they should not kill leopards.
He checks on the foundation’s motion-sensor-triggered cameras placed in wilderness areas across Eastern Cape and Western Cape. The cameras are used to track the movements and population size of the leopards.
Missing said there are between 300 and 400 leopards left in the two provinces, an area twice the size of the Kruger Park.
The Landmark Foundation has worked for eight years to save leopard, jackal and caracal, which are killed by farmers “who want nothing but their livestock living on their land”, according to foundation director Bool Smuts.
Smuts is a medical doctor with a master’s degree in environmental management. He is the inspiration behind the foundation’s efforts to save predators.
He said the foundation’s study of the leopard population in the Cape is one of the biggest in the world.
Foundation researchers have captured 24 leopards and fitted them with tracking collars. About 20 of the collared leopards have died naturally, or have been shot by hunters or farmers.
“South Africans worry that there are only 20000 rhino left, but there only between 5000 and 7000 leopards left in the country,” Smuts said.
Two farmers in Boesmanland, Northern Cape, killed a leopard this week – but not before it mauled them.
They are in an intensive care unit, one likely to lose an arm and the other with severe facial injuries.
They went out to kill jackal on Wednesday night, saw two eyes in the dark and fired a shot, hitting the leopard, which attacked them before dying from the wound.
“This proves that animal hunts to reduce problem jackal are utterly indiscriminate and kill many, many innocent bystanders. That is unethical,” Smuts said.