Introducing Zak, the wandering leopard

Published: 25 August 2010

The Cape Leopard Trust’s Gouritz project team recently obtained data from the first leopard to be collared in the area, a young adult male named Zak. Zak’s capture was something of an unexpected bonus, as he appeared in a cage over 20km away from where he had been previously photographed, in an area where we were attempting to capture another male leopard. Since his capture, Zak’s movements have been monitored using a tracking collar, providing valuable insight into the behaviour of leopards in the Gouritz area.

During the first six weeks after capture, Zak moved over an area of nearly 400 km2. However, the bulk of his time was spent in two relatively small areas; one to the north of the Rooiberg Mountain, close to Calitzdorp, and the second south-east of the Rooiberg Mountain. Zak would spend several days in an area, and then rapidly move across the Rooiberg to the area on the other side of the mountain, covering in excess of 20km in less than a day – an incredible feat given the terrain involved. Interestingly, Zak spends relatively little time on the high ground of the Rooiberg itself, preferring to occupy the lower foothills.

A likely reason for this unusual movement pattern is the presence of another male leopard on the Rooiberg Mountain. Our camera traps have regularly photographed a large male, named Oom Pep, on and around the Rooiberg, and we suspect that Oom Pep’s territory bisects that of Zak. Zak therefore hastens between his two main territorial areas to reduce the risk of an encounter with Oom Pep. Unfortunately we have not yet been able to capture and collar Oom Pep, but it will be fascinating to see how these two males interact with one another in the future.

Another possible explanation for this behaviour is that Zak simply prefers hunting in the spekboom thicket vegetation that covers the rolling foothills around the Rooiberg, rather than in the fynbos that covers the higher altitudes of the Rooiberg itself. Vegetation type and altitude are likely to influence the type and abundance of prey available, and it could be that the areas occupied by Zak have more available prey than the Rooiberg. Zak appears to have developed a taste for an unusual (and potentially hazardous) type of prey, and we look forward to sharing this information with you in our next update!

The Cape Leopard Trust Trapping Techniques

icon no trap Short overview of three trapping methods considered by the Cape Leopard Trust as safe and humane

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