ENVIRONMENT

In South Africa, conservationists offer fake leopard hides

  • FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2016 file photo members of the Shembe Church dressed in tribal leopard skins sing the praise of their prophet on the holy Nlangakazi Mountain north of Durban, South Africa in an annual pilgrimage. In a gathering this weekend many worshippers will wear leopard skins, seen as symbols of status and power. Some of the pelts to be displayed, however, are fake, reflecting an effort by an international conservation group to reduce poaching of Africa's threatened leopards. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

    FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2016 file photo members of the Shembe Church dressed in tribal leopard skins sing the praise of their prophet on the holy Nlangakazi Mountain north of Durban, South Africa in an annual pilgrimage. In a gathering this weekend many worshippers will wear leopard skins, seen as symbols of status and power. Some of the pelts to be displayed, however, are fake, reflecting an effort by an international conservation group to reduce poaching of Africa's threatened leopards. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2016 file photo a man and his son, members of the Shembe Church, dressed in tribal leopard skins at the end of a pilgrimage on the holy Nlangakazi Mountain north of Durban, South Africa. In a gathering this weekend many worshippers will wear leopard skins, seen as symbols of status and power. Some of the pelts to be displayed, however, are fake, reflecting an effort by an international conservation group to reduce poaching of Africa's threatened leopards. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

    FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2016 file photo a man and his son, members of the Shembe Church, dressed in tribal leopard skins at the end of a pilgrimage on the holy Nlangakazi Mountain north of Durban, South Africa. In a gathering this weekend many worshippers will wear leopard skins, seen as symbols of status and power. Some of the pelts to be displayed, however, are fake, reflecting an effort by an international conservation group to reduce poaching of Africa's threatened leopards. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)  (The Associated Press)

Many worshippers at a large religious gathering in South Africa this weekend will wear leopard skins, seen as symbols of status and power. But some of the pelts are fake, reflecting an effort by an international conservation group to reduce poaching of the threatened animals.

The Shembe church of southern Africa, which mixes Christian and traditional Zulu beliefs, is expected to draw many thousands of people Sunday near the city of Durban.

The Panthera conservation group says it has donated more than 14,000 fake leopard skins to Shembe followers and that demand for real leopard pelts in the Shembe community in South Africa has dropped by 50 percent because of the campaign.

Panthera launched its "Furs for Life" project in 2013.