Our euphoria had scarcely died down when one of these leopard cubs was caught in a gin trap and had to be euthanased on site by the vet.
Well great news is – relationships with farmers in the area are going very well. Johan van der Westhuizen and Thys de Wet, expert in the management of damage-causing animals, held a meeting with farmers in the area, providing a detailed explanation of our modus operandi.
We see positive attitudes coming from this, and the first steps have been taken to walk the long road to stop unnecessary killing of predators. A predator action committee has been set up with Quinton, Ben-Jon, nature conservation officials and several farmers on board. This is where the battle will be won. Ben-Jon has done well to forge solid relationships with the farmers - good understanding goes a long way. Testament to this, one of the farmers in the Kamiesberg region is currently allowing the CLT Namaqualand team to test an alternative predator control system on his farm. This system aims to deter predators from attacking livestock rather than trying to eradicate them from farmland. The idea is to use livestock collars that have bells and scent blocks to make vulnerable lambs sound and smell unnatural to predators in the area. Thus far we have collared all the lambs on this farm and are currently recording the stock losses incurred. Once the experiment is completed, we hope to make recommendations concerning the system and report on its feasibility as an alternative predator control method.
The bonds between farmers in the Northern Cape and the CLT were further strengthened when Quinton and Ben-Jon attended a meeting held by the Northern Cape Red Meat Production Organization (NCRPO). In this meeting, it was agreed that farmers and conservation groups should work together to find socially acceptable alternative methods to control predators as well as come up with solutions to the human-wildlife conflict in the area..
Furthermore, it was decided that Quinton would represent the CLT on a committee to drive this project. Researchers and members of the RPO would meet to draw up an action plan to find suitable predator control alternatives in five recognized sub-regions in the Northern Cape.
Lastly, our camera traps have been delivering some great leopard photographs over the last month or two.
We have now identified who we believe to be the mother of the cub that was caught in the gin trap, as we have several photographs of her moving through her territory. Furthermore, we have found two males within our study area. In the future we hope to be able to estimate the size of the population in Namaqualand and ultimately, using GPS collars, track the movements of these leopards.