Ultimately, this event marked the beginning of a new project of the Cape Leopard Trust – a rolling survey of leopard populations on the doorstep of greater Cape Town, starting with the Limietberg Mountains (from Bainskloof to Franschhoek) then continuing through the length of the Hottentot’s Holland Mountains down to the coast and then back up to the Groot Winterhoek. The camera trapping survey will start in Limietberg early next year (2010), where the Cape Leopard Trust will be working in partnership with Cape Nature. In his presentation, Quinton described the work currently being done in the Cederberg, particularly relating to the Cape leopard’s use of the landscape and then introduced the Limietberg project.
Perhaps the most touching moment of the evening was when two ten year old boys stepped up to the microphone and presented Quinton with money they had raised for the leopards. They had spent an entire day on their bicycles riding around their neighbourhood, selling goodies and telling people about the leopards. They handed over the amazing sum of R1500! A group of cyclists, who regularly cycle in the Limietberg, had done some fundraising of their own and also presented it to Quinton.
Conversations flowed over a delicious buffet, which was followed by prizes of Leopard’s Leap Wines (www.leopards-leap.com) and a generous Capestorm (www.capestorm.co.za) voucher.
In a near impromptu auction, with huge bottles of Leopard’s Leap wine, a weekend tracking trip to Bakkrans (www.redcederberg.co.za), a weekend away at Kagga Kamma (www.kaggakamma.co.za) and a beautiful serigraph of a leopard by Dylan Lewis (www.dylanlewis.com), the latter raising a significant R25,000 to kick-start the new Boland project. It was a wonderful evening and we were overwhelmed by the support and interest. Exhausted but happy, we were able to retire to the wonderful, rustic Franschhoek Otter’s Bend Lodge (firstname.lastname@example.org). Our thanks to Mark for his generosity in putting us up for the night.
We anticipate that the proximity of this new project to Cape Town and surrounds will generate a great deal of public interest, as already witnessed at the Pearl Valley event. As the MC for the evening put it, “tonight, they have become our leopards”. Not only will this build awareness of leopards in the Cape, but of all the other shy animals which inhabit our mountains and are so seldom seen. The infra-red camera traps are ‘24hr observers’, taking photos of everything that moves before them.
The Cape Leopard Trust will be working with the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) on an unprecedented project in which the public can become ‘citizen scientists’ – using camera traps to monitor the animals on their properties and submitting these findings to the ADU.
A massive database of photographs will be created – a virtual museum – which will be available for viewing on the internet. The ADU has already done this for butterflies and reptiles (http://vmus.adu.org.za/), but not for mammals and not using camera traps. The photographs taken by the Cape Leopard Trust during the survey will also be added to this virtual museum.