The Cape Leopard Trust - Using research as a tool for conservation & finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict
Monday, 06 December 2010 05:55

Bishops in the Bush

By Nadia Hansa, CLT volunteer from Wits University 

Over the last two weeks the grade 10 boys from Bishop’s have been in the Cederberg on their EPIC adventure and, as part of our education programme we have been taking them out on a series of hikes to teach them more about leopards and leopard research. Each of the 10 groups of boys has joined us for an afternoon to help set up or check camera traps, find kill sites or track Spot (one of our collared leopards).

With their help we set up three cameras in an area we have not yet surveyed for leopard activity and we hope to get pictures of some new leopards soon. Although hiking up to the spots for these camera traps was often very hot the boys enjoyed the bundu bashing which is often necessary to find good sites for the cameras.

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Bundu Bashing in the middle of nowhere in particular

While tracking one lucky group even saw Spot and were able to watch her for 40 minutes as she climbed some rocks and lay down to clean her paws and sun herself.  Of course the next group wanted to see her as well and so we set out to track her again, but while we were focussed on the signal coming from up the valley we heard a distress cry of a klipspringer from the mountain on our left and realised we had just heard a leopard making a kill.

The next day we set out to find a kill that Spot had made earlier in the year. We handed the GPS over to one of the boys and told him to take us to that point, much to the horror of his friends who were convinced he’d get us lost. Determined to prove them wrong and staring fixedly at the arrow on the GPS he led us straight over a rocky outcrop and through a riverbed right to the kill site which he quickly found in the thick reeds. He looked quite proud of himself when he crawled out of the bushes carrying a leg bone and his companions looked suitably impressed as well. 

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In search of a kill site with a very nervous guide

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Gingerly holding the remains of a klipspringer

Apart from the main aims of setting up the traps we also showed the boys some interesting spoor (including honeybadger and fresh leopard!) and explained to them how to identify these tracks and age them. Quinton caught scorpions and rock agamas for the boys to look at up close before releasing them again to scuttle off looking quite indignant. On one hike we were distracted for some time trying to track a puff adder. We didn’t find him but it was very entertaining watching 13 teenagers creeping carefully through the bush so as not to step on the snake.

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Examining the belly of a scorpion

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A honeybadger track on the road

Quite apart from all the jokes and funny anecdotes it is very rewarding to see the excitement in the group at the sighting of a leopard or the intense silence of normally rowdy boys while listening for the sounds of a kill being dragged and we consider it a job well done when originally disinterested teenagers start to ask questions with that child like delight that nature brings. 

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The first photo on the new camera trap of the boys who set it up

The Cape Leopard Trust Trapping Techniques

icon no trapShort overview of three trapping methods considered by the Cape Leopard Trust as safe and humane: Cage traps, Foot loop traps or Foot snares, Soft-catch traps, References to relevant scientific literature.

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