Early on the last Sunday morning of 2014, our Programme Manager, Bryan Havemann, received a telephone call from a concerned farmer, in the Ashton area to say he had come across a leopard that had accidentally got itself trapped in a cage intended for caracal capture. Being quite a distance away in Cape Town, Bryan quickly alerted Jaco van Deventer at CapeNature who dispatched Martin van Tonder (Acting-Conservation Service Manager) at Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve to deal with the leopard.
Martin and a colleague quickly got some kit together to go to the aid of the rather upset leopard. Unfortunately no veterinarian was available to assist, at such short notice. They found the cage set within a river course with dense trees and bushes adjacent to a sheep camp. On closer inspection the animal was clearly a big, healthy male leopard with very dark spots, not at all happy to find himself in such a confined space. A quick solution was needed, with as little human contact as possible. They carefully placed a tarpaulin cover over the cage to calm the animal. The cage was then gently turned on its side and a rope attached to the sliding gate.
From the safety of the vehicle Martin was then able to slowly pull open the cage trap sliding gate and set the animal free. The uninjured leopard could not get out fast enough and headed up into the mountains to safety. The operation was fortunately very straightforward and it is always best to release an animal into its own area rather than relocate it elsewhere because of their territorial nature. Leopards in the Cape are so secretive that very few people ever get to see one.
As Martin said, “These animals are so wild - it was just awesome to be so close to such an amazing animal like a leopard”. The Cape Leopard Trust would like to thank our colleagues at CapeNature for springing into action so quickly and in so doing minimising the trauma for the leopard, and especially to the farmer for giving us the opportunity to set this lucky leopard free in its natural habitat.