In the Golden Light of the Leopard

In the Golden Light of the Leopard
Published: 15 September 2014

Dear Cape Leopard Trust Supporters,

Thank you for your loyal support over the years. I wanted all of you to know of my decision to step down as head of the CLT after 11 years of working on the project and setting it up in the Cederberg. The time has come for me to take on a new challenge in my life. Elizabeth and I will be moving to California next year where I will be joining the Snow Leopard Conservancy (, and working with pioneer snow leopard researcher and conservationist, Dr Rodney Jackson. I see this as an incredible opportunity to have a more profound conservation impact and am pleased to say that I will remain involved with the CLT as trustee and non-executive director, contributing to my vision of connecting mountain cat conservation across the globe. Elizabeth will continue to co-ordinate the fantastic Environmental Education Project while over there. I am also very pleased that I will be handing over the project to a very competent team and that the project has never been in such a good space with inspiring plans for the future.

The project has grown considerably since I started it in 2003, however, I hope that we remain humble and never lose sight of where we came from and what our vision is. My time with the Cape Leopard Trust has been the most incredible journey forming a significant part of my life. The friendships formed, challenges overcome and mentorship received has been integral to my personal development. I particularly wish to thank my fellow Trustees who have had to deal with my often overwhelming passion and energy – always with their selfless and generous assistance and guidance to help develop and improve this amazing project which has such incredible integrity. Your support will always be precious to us and the environment we live in.

As I will effectively be stepping down at the end of this month, the events that unfolded in the Cederberg over the past week could not have been better timed as the culmination of a decade’s hard work. The SA Mint have launched a Natura Coin Series called “Nocturnal Hunters: The Leopard” and nominated the Cape Leopard Trust as the charity beneficiary for this exclusive range of gold coins. Last week, the SA Mint, media and production teams streamed into the Cederberg to see 600 Leopard gold coins minted at a very special place to me – Bakkrans Nature Reserve in the Red Cederberg ( Bakkrans is owned by the Chairman of the Cape Leopard Trust, Johan van der Westhuizen – the very first person to support my work in March 2004. It is also the place where I photographed my first Cape leopard on the 23rd May 2004, and where I was fortunate enough to get married in December 2009!

Directly below where Elizabeth and I were married, an extremely impressive and heavy gold-coin press was heaved into a beautiful rock overhang. This hand press is 126 years old and belonged to President Paul Kruger. It was the very press that was carried by him in the field during the Anglo-Boer War and used to produce the famous Veldpond (! Along with the press at Bakkrans were the technicians and the artist, Thinus Scheepers, who designed this limited edition gold coin. The coins, valued at R30 000 each, had the final insignia minted on them here – a leopard paw print with ‘CLT’ inscribed below. The magnificence of the occasion in such a glorious place was not lost on a soul and after the minting was completed 6 hours later, we announced the naming of a new male leopard which had just moved into the area – Thinus Scheepers!

The next morning I watched the sunrise over the Red Cederberg and reflected on 11 years of working in this wild and spiritual place so close to my heart.

For more information on the sale of these gold coins please contact Helen Turnbull at [email protected]

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