Camera trapping for Overberg leopards in full swing!

Published: 14 September 2021

The Cape Leopard Trust Research team is thrilled to report that our much-anticipated camera survey of the Overberg is well underway! We are already 3 weeks into the data collection period, with 172 cameras at 86 locations spanning the region from Botvlei in the west to De Hoop vlei in the east – a total survey area of over 2400 km2. The camera grid will be operational until the end of the year, and our first servicing period is coming up shortly, so we will soon be able to share the first images from this ambitious survey.

The setup of the survey would have been impossible without the amazing help of our collaborators at Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy, Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA, Denel OTR, SANParks Agulhas NP and CapeNature, and all the landowners and private reserves who granted us access. The survey involves over 60 landowners, and these important custodians of leopard habitat are pivotal to the success of this research.

Another crucial aspect was reliable and capable off-road vehicles to transport our teams and equipment to all of the camera sites. We’d like to send a huge thanks to Ford South Africa for loaning us a Ford Ranger 4x4 for the duration of the survey setup – this enabled us to have 3 teams in the field simultaneously and deploy all cameras in the shortest time possible. Along with our Ford Wildlife Foundation sponsored Ranger, the vehicles performed exceptionally well, navigating some challenging rocky terrain, flooded wetlands and very muddy jeep tracks with ease.

Another massive shoutout goes to Rentech Renewable Technologies – in addition to the 200 6V rechargeable batteries and 5 chargers that they have already sponsored, Rentech supplied us a further 130 batteries at minimum price. This will ensure that we will have fully charged batteries to exchange with the ones currently in the camera traps without the worry of charging batteries on-the-go in the field – which will greatly simplify the servicing period.

The Overberg survey is of course part of the Tale of Two Leopards project, a collaborative effort with Endangered Wildlife Trust focussed on two iconic species in the Overberg region – the leopard and the Western leopard toad (Sclerophrys pantherina). While the CLT teams have been busy setting up the leopard camera survey, the EWT has been working to improve the understanding of WLT distribution in the Overberg region. They have launched a call for citizen scientists to report WLT observations (including historical records) in the Overberg via iNaturalist. Simply download the iNaturalist app, sign up, and use it to upload photos of any WLT that you encounter. Add the project “Leopard Toads of the Overberg” to add your WLT observations for the region [].

Another way to be involved in this research is by keeping an eye out for WLT toad roadkill. SANBI is leading a project researching the genetics between and within WLT populations, and they are looking for DNA samples from the Overberg region. If any fresh ‘same night’ WLT carcasses are found, these can be collected. For collection protocol please contact SANBI’s Dr Jessica da Silva.

This project is continually showing us that two leopards are better than one, and conservation with multiple partners is better than working in isolation. Now we eagerly await the camera trap images to reveal the diversity of species coexisting in this unique landscape.