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Newsletter, December 2007

Published: 21 December 2007

Dear Cape Leopard Trust supporters,
it is our pleasure to once again fill you in on all the latest news and developments on our project. We hope you enjoy reading it. Please remember to contact us if you have any questions concerning the project or these stunning felids.

We would also like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If you are travelling by car, please drive safe, be patient and don't get too bugged with the impatient drivers out there. Enjoy the wonderful landscapes we have instead...

We can hardly believe that it is almost the end of another successful year with the Cape Leopard Trust. There has been steady progress with the project and all facets of our mandate are being fulfilled, namely conservation, research and education. We have begun with the expansion of the project, moving into the Swartberg/Gamkaberg Corridor as well as a strong possibility of working in Namaqualand. The Trust has also appointed a new assistant project manager for the Swartberg Project, Leigh Potter, who started at the beginning of October.

Much of the success of our project is based on the solid research foundation we have created. This and the fact that information gleaned from our arduous tromping up and down these rugged mountains is conveyed to the public on a regular basis through our newsletters, newspaper articles and regular coverage in the Africa Geographic magazine (www.africageographic.com).

South Africans can also be proud of their commitment to conservation judging by the phenomenal local support we have had this year (and since the inception of the project). This year has seen several new sponsors come on board, including Deutsche Bank who have contributed a generous R100 000. Thank you to those at Deutsche Bank for your involvement and support. Of course, how could we thank all our other sponsors enough for their continued support of our work.

What’s All The Fuss?
Just to recap on what The Cape Leopard Trust is all about and why we need your support.

We exist at a time where over the past 100 years dramatic changes have occurred in our precious environment. Human population growth and the consequent habitat encroachment has become a major threat to our natural heritage.
The Cape Leopard Trust was borne when a realisation that the Cape’s apex predator, the leopard, may be in danger of extinction, due largely to loss of habitat and persecution by humans. Bona fide research projects were immediately registered with the statutory conservation body, Cape Nature, in association with tertiary academic institutions, to investigate the status of our remnant large predator population. Over 4 years of intensive research has resulted in a clear indication that leopards in the Western Cape occur in very low densities, are highly inbred and appear genetically different from their northern counterparts. Continual persecution and loss of habitat is a serious threat to this population. We are demonstrating that leopards and farmers can co-exist in this environment and mean to make this a norm, whereby farmers are aware of the benefits of not killing predators or any other natural fauna on their land.

Leopards are, however, not the be-all and end-all of animal life in the Cape Folded Mountains. The intricate links that exist between each organism in an environment means that leopards do not stand alone. All facets need to be understood and conserved in order for life to go on. This balance we strive for is more difficult to attain as a result of human intervention. Thus, our involvement is especially geared to generating information which can be used to lessen the impact people have on their environment, increase tolerance of so-called “problem animals” and expose the public to the importance of conserving what natural assets we are still fortunate to possess.

Our passion lies in the research we do, providing information which makes the reasons behind predator conservation self-explanatory. For instance, killing or relocating a leopard is a futile exercise only resulting in the perpetuation of the problems at hand. We know this, because the ecology of leopards or other predators in our system determines this, and data obtained over the past 4 years has confirmed it.

So, what have we been up to? In a nut-shell…
We have completed a 2 year leopard density survey using remote infra-red cameras; captured 21 leopards of which 10 have been collared with GPS collars contributing considerably to the understanding of leopard ecology; we are working to inform and assist farmers such as sponsoring of Anatolian Shepherd dogs to protect their livestock; we have created strong bonds with farmers in the Cederberg ensuring the banning of all gin traps in the Cederberg Conservancy (the first move of this kind in SA); we have published 2 scientific papers in international scientific journals, one Masters thesis, two internship reports, and have formalised a PhD project on the leopards in the Western Cape (Quinton – University of Bristol); we are employing and training community members; we have set up studies on the health of rock hyrax (dassie) populations; we are in the process of determining prey abundance; investigating other non-invasive means to assess the status of leopard populations using new genetic techniques; we have provided a bursary to a Masters student at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to determine leopard diet; and …the list goes on…

Acceptable trapping techniques

icon no trap The Cape Leopard Trust’s position statement on acceptable trapping techniques for carnivore research

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