The "Tierman" of the Cederberg returns

The "Tierman" of the Cederberg returns
Published: 01 September 2011

Twenty five years ago, a young man passionate about conserving leopards in the Cape mountains, studied the leopards in the Cederberg. His name is Peter Norton. Peter did some groundbreaking work on one of the most difficult animals to study, despite having the limitations of what we would now call "antiquated" tracking equipment. He collared and tracked 3 male leopards using VHF radio collars and found their ranges to be about 50 square kilometres. Apart from these data, he also collected extremely valuable data on leopard diet in various mountain habitats in the Cape. In total, 6 scientific publications were derived from his studies - these were the studies which formed the basis of my study on leopards in the Cederberg 8 years ago. Every bit I wrote had a reference of his somewhere. It was his work that was one of the motivating factors that led me to do my PhD.

It is almost unbelievable to think that, for some reason, we were unable to meet over the past 8 years. However, a couple of months ago, Peter attended a talk I gave in Johannesburg and we met for the first time. A week ago, he visited the project. It was amazing to share so many similar feelings about something we are both so passionate about. Reminiscing over how difficult it is to trap these elusive and ghost-like creatures, and how frustrated one becomes! These were just some of the things we spoke about during the week he was here.

Getting to see a mountain leopard is another thing! Peter had 2 sightings during his time studying these leopards. Not counting GPS radio collared animals, I have had 7 sightings in 8 years. Boy! Frustrating beasts! However, on a day out tracking, Elizabeth, Peter and I had a magical moment when we tracked M6 (Max) using our "sophisticated" GPS equipment, and were very fortunate to have an amazing 10 minute sighting of this stunning cat moving down a rocky slope about 200m from us. YES! The Gods were looking out over the original Tierman.

I have now come to take over the name, but I will never forget what the first "Tierman" did to help these enigmatic cats in the mountains.

Dr Quinton Martins

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