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Monday, 20 June 2011 09:32

Spotted cats of the Southern Boland

Spotted cats of the Southern Boland

The end of April 2011 marked the conclusion of the four month Boland southern survey, which was conducted in the Jonkershoek and Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserves, the Kogelberg Biospere Reserve, as well as privately owned mountain land adjacent to this core area.

The majestic peaks of the southern Boland Mountains. a) Assegaaiboschkloof from Bergrivernek; b) Landdroskop from the Shamrock hut; c) False Bay from Landdroskop neck; d) Simonsberg from Square Tower Peak.

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a) False Bay from Hans se Kop; b) Franschhoek mountains from Pofaddernek; c) Jonkershoek valley from Bergrivernek; d) Klein-Hangklip mountains from Hangklip peak; e) Kogelberg mountains from Hangklip; f) Blousteen mountains from above Koeëlbaai.
The southern study area is more fragmented by towns and farmland than the Limietberg NR, which represents a more continuous wilderness area.We were quite curious to see how this would affect leopard numbers and ranges.

The animals did not disappoint! Analysis of photographic data from 82 cameras at 50 locations revealed the same species assemblage as r the Limietberg survey. The 22 mammal species recorded in the southern area included African wildcat, grey rhebuck and large grey mongoose. Some gems among the last batch of pictures collected were two beautifully clear, full body photos of Cape clawless otter (Aonyx capensis) and water mongoose (Atilax paludinosus).

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Cape clawless otter

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Water mongoose

The diamond among the gems was a series of pictures showing a female African striped weasel (Poecilogale albinucha) carrying her young in her mouth past our cameras. These pictures were particularly encouraging since they were taken just a couple of weeks after the devastating fire that raged through the Kogelberg Nature Reserve in March 2011.

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A female African weasel carrying her young

On the leopard front we were also very satisfied – 18 adult leopards and 2 cubs were identified in the study area. The leopard numbers from both surveys suggest that leopard density in the Boland appear to be higher than in the Cederberg, but further analyses will be conducted to confirm this.

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Top left: Skye (BF12), near Landdroskop in Hottentots-Holland NR; right: Jack (BM14) scent-marking a tree in Jonkershoek NR.

Surprisingly, the territory of one of the dominant males, Scott (BM12), even spans the N2! This means that he would need to cross the highway to patrol his territory illustrating how adaptable these enigmatic cats are. His territory stretches from the southern peaks of the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, southwards through the Steenbras Nature Reserve and eastwards into the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. Motorists please beware of leopards crossing the road on the N1 & N2 in mountainous regions, particularly early in the morning or at night!

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Scott (BM12) in the Hottentots-Holland and Kogelberg NR

Popeye (BM17) looks to be another ‘main man’ in the Southern study area and was captured at nine different sites. He roams all the way from the high peaks of the Hottentots-Holland that majestically fringes Somerset-West, south-eastwards through the Groenlandberg, with our most southerly capture in the Houwhoek region.

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Popeye (BM17) in the Groenlandberg NR

All our cameras are currently re-deployed in the Limietberg, and we are very excited to collect the first results next month – so watch this space for another interesting update!

Boland greetings
Anita & Jeannie

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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