I began researching leopards in the Cederberg Mountains 9 years ago. The Cape Leopard Trust was born the following year (2004) as a consequence of bearing witness to an unacceptable number of leopard mortalities due to conflict with farmers. Since then, The Cape Leopard Trust, a registered PBO and predator conservation working group in the Cape, has been using research as a tool for conservation, finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict and inspiring interest in the environment through an interactive and dynamic environmental education programme.
Pic left: Lizzy’s latest cub at about 5 months old
It has grown to include a dedicated team, inspired to make a difference, that seldom get the chance to reflect on the great work they are doing. I wish to dedicate this note to them, the Board of Trustees who help oversee the project and the people who believe in us and support our work.
A true success
Prior to the project, an average of almost 8 leopards was killed every year in the Cederberg alone. Our work has brought a grinding halt to this killing. This success was brought home to me when on Tuesday the 1st May we recaptured and re-collared a female leopard well known to us. F5, fondly known as “Lizzy”, is the leopard we have monitored for the longest period – 8 yrs. She is also the oldest leopard we know of in the Cederberg having first photographed her in 2004. On the 1st January 2005, we captured a stunning camera trap photograph of one of her offspring, a 3-month old cub we named Ololo. Taking this into account as well as her yellowed (not due to Marlboro’s!) and worn teeth, we estimate her to be at least 12 years old. We know of 3 litters of cubs and great news is she has a fourth now – a single cub of about a year old.
What a tale! (Photo: M.Drouilly)
Were it not for the work of the Cape Leopard Trust and the tremendous support of the Cederberg Conservancy, surrounding farmers and tourism establishments, Cape Nature and project sponsors, Lizzy would most likely have been another statistic of a damage causing animal killed. Although it is but a small part of what we are doing to conserve our natural heritage, we would like to think of this as a wonderful success.
So, almost a decade on, The Cape Leopard Trust continues to strive to make a difference. We are a relatively small organisation, but what we lack in size, we make up for in effort, commitment and innovation. We aim for a balanced and effective approach, trying to be as practical and realistic as possible when it comes to emotive issues. In order to tackle issues, we gather the information and data needed to make informed decisions and alter perceptions based on fact rather than emotional conjecture. We continue to grow, build partnerships and find new projects which will enhance our understanding of the environment we live in and the complex relationships between it and humans.
I am proud to say we have a great team!
I will be taking a three month sabbatical which will include visiting large carnivore projects in the USA, giving talks on our work there and finding ways to collaborate and integrate our work with that being done elsewhere in the world. Elizabeth and I will also be starting a family during this time – from leopard cubs to a little one running around in biodegradable leopard-print diapers!
Leopard capture team at 2am – from left: Dr Marc Walton our vet, Steven Windel from Nuwesrust Restcamp, Quinton, Marine our caracal researcher and Mark Jenzel from Cape Nature. (Photo: M.Drouilly)
I want to thank everyone for all their support over the years. Thank You!
Lastly (but not least), I want to thank Matthew Philogene and raramuridesign www.raramuridesign.com for all the time and effort put into maintaining and now redoing our website. We hope you like the changes aimed at providing more information and making it easier to access it.