Pushing the boundaries of animal safety for researchers

Published: 16 December 2010

The CLT have had a very exciting 2010 pushing the boundaries to make animal trapping safer.

We were previously using cage traps only, however, cage trapping can on occasion result in broken canines and damaged claws to trapped leopards.  Indeed some other researchers and NGOs have had leopards being killed using cage traps where they were most likely not set properly. To minimise as far as possible the potential for such injuries, the CLT is actively working to develop safer cage traps and trap monitoring systems. We are also exploring more suitable trapping methods. To assist us, we have employed the services of a full-time veterinarian with over 30 years of experience including having carried out carnivore research in Botswana. Her expertise will be crucial to us  improving current and establishing new trapping methods.

As an alternative to cage trapping, we are now testing the use of a globally used large-carnivore trapping method, namely, foot snares or foot loop traps promoted by the wildlife capture guidelines of the American Society of Mammalogists, an organisation which is regarded as a world-leader in promoting ethical research standards. To be safe, we have also consulted with ethics committees from the various institutions we are affiliated with and have received permits (from Cape Nature) and full ethics clearance for this trapping method from the University of Bristol (UK) and from Rhodes University.

Foot snares are very safe and have no threat of injury when monitored properly by researchers. Currently they are used for leopard trapping in South Africa by the Panthera Foundation and the University of Pretoria Mammal Institute. Furthermore, snow leopards, jaguars, cougars and tigers are all routinely and safely caught by researchers using this method with great success. An amazing result from our capturing and collaring 3 leopards this year using this method has been the fact that it has been 100% target specific where no non-target species were captured. The CLT have gone to extreme lengths to do this properly, including hiring an eminent American professional trapper to train our Rhodes University PhD student in this technique.

The following scientific paper highlights the efficacy and safety of this trapping method:

Frank, L., Simpson, D. & Woodroffe, R. (2003). Foot snares: an effective method for capturing African lions. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 31, 309-314.

We will continue to test and refine the two trapping techniques, as both have useful applications. We are also lobbying at a national level to ensure that all researchers and conservation NGO’s have ethics clearance for their work. This is very important, as if they do not, they are not being held accountable for their actions, which could easily affect animal safety when trapping.

The CLT have also had the time to comment on the latest draft Damage Causing Animal Norms and Standards. One of the suggestions was that conventional leg hold/gin traps be banned and that the use of soft trap leg hold traps be allowed for an intermediate period of 3 years. We support the fact that this is a step in the right direction, although misuse of these traps is also damaging to trapped animals. Properly monitored, these traps are used worldwide for research purposes for trapping and collaring of smaller carnivores such as Pallis cats, coyotes, bobcats. For more information see our article: //gin_traps/index.html

We look forward to updating you on our further research next year. Please contact us if you have any queries on our work or our project. Our 2010 annual report is also available for download – please follow the link: //annual_reports/annual_reports.html

Quinton Martins
Project Manager
The Cape Leopard Trust

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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