Leopards Panthera pardus are highly adaptable large felids that persist in un-protected areas throughout South Africa. However, leopards are frequently involved in conflict with land users and subsequently killed in retaliatory incidents. Efforts to foster tolerance for leopard conservation largely rely on trophy hunting and ecotourism. However there is growing concern that trophy hunting may lead to population declines. Combining this with shortages of demographic data generates serious conservation challenges for wildlife managers. In this thesis, I evaluated the viability of the South African leopard population using simulation models and empirically collected data. I further evaluated the response of people engaged in retaliatory killing of leopards and leopard trophy hunters to varying leopard abundance. A habitat suitability model suggested that current suitable leopard habitat is fragmented and that the majority exists on non-protected areas. The national protected area system was largely ineffective in capturing suitable leopard habitat. Stochastic population models suggested unsustainable harvest levels at the current levels of retaliatory killing. Furthermore, simulations with only non-harvest related anthropogenic mortality also produced high probabilities of decline, indicating that non-harvest related anthropogenic mortality, such as retaliatory killings, can significantly impact the sustainability of harvest and the viability of the South African leopard population. Likewise survival analysis indicated that leopard survival in non-protected areas was significantly lower than in protected areas, and that humans were responsible for the majority of leopard deaths in non-protected areas. Finally retaliatory killing occurred at a higher rate of killing at low leopard abundances compared to hunting. Therefore retaliatory killing of leopards are more likely to be detrimental to leopard populations than trophy hunting. My findings strongly suggest that non-protected areas are important for leopard conservation, but that conflict in these areas currently may limit their conservation potential. I therefore suggest that the control of retaliatory killing of leopards may be more effective in promoting leopard persistence than restricting trophy harvest. Furthermore, conservation actions that aim to foster increased participation by the private sector, representing non-protected areas, in large carnivore conservation initiatives may be particularly beneficial to the long term conservation of leopards.