Phantom of the forest: discovery on a mountain bike trail

Phantom of the forest: discovery on a mountain bike trail
Published: 14 November 2011

Surely one of the biggest draw cards of Mountain Biking as a sport is the great outdoors - many routes and trails (some demanding more effort than others) take you to some of the most beautiful vistas, pristine wilderness areas and tranquil, yet exhilarating, open spaces. The Contego Wines2Whales (W2W) MTB race and adventure is no different.  The W2W route falls within the southern borders of the Boland Project's study area, and the organisers of the W2W event generously donated 5 remote-sensing field cameras to the project to survey new locations within the study area, not only for leopard activity but also for the presence of other nocturnal and shy mammals.  The cameras were deployed at selected spots along the W2W route in August 2011, and have since recorded leopard, porcupine, large-spotted genet, baboon, common duiker, dassie and Cape hare.

One particularly interesting record is that of a bushbuck in the plantation behind Houw Hoek.  Bushbuck do not naturally occur this far west in the Cape, and although there have previously been anecdotal reports of bushbuck in this area, this is the first scientific record.  It is uncertain whether this bushbuck may be an escapee from a game farm, or whether bushbuck may be naturally moving in from the east along the patches of alien thicket.  This again highlights the value of camera traps in obtaining new distribution records, and we urge interested members of the public to buy these cameras and start recording!

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This bushbuck record will now be added to the Virtual Museum for Mammals (VIMMA) database and will add a valuable new point to the current known distribution for this species.

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Map taken from "Field guide to mammals of southern Africa" by Chris & Tilde Stuart

VIMMA essentially is a website where members of the public can act as citizen scientists by submitting their mammal photos. In just a few easy steps, you can play an important role in helping to build 21st century distribution maps of the southern African mammals by adding your data to this one database.  Register (for free) on the ADU website (http://vmus.adu.org.za ) and you're ready to contribute. Adding data is very simple, just fill in a few lines with specifics on the picture, fill in the GPS coordinates (or pinpoint the location on the Google map supplied), attach the image(s) and there you go. Accurate geographic data such as this are critically important for biodiversity conservation, so register for a Virtual Museum (VM) account today and start uploading your pictures (be it photos taken on a family holiday in a National Park, on a walk on Table Mountain, or a camera trap photo).  Read more about VIMMA at http://mammals.adu.org.za/

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