Launching the "Wildlife of the Winelands Research Experience"!

Launching the "Wildlife of the Winelands Research Experience"!
Published: 26 May 2013

The Cape Winelands is known for its outstanding wine and exquisite food, but what about its secretive wildlife?

Join the Cape Leopard Trust’s Boland-based researchers, and spend a ‘day at the office’ with them as they search for signs of the elusive Cape mountain leopard and other animals that share their world.

The day starts with morning coffee at Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards and a short presentation by the researchers explaining their work in the Boland area. Learn how to recognise a leopard ‘spoor’ as well as the tracks and signs of other fascinating animals.

This is an opportunity to get a real insight into the challenges facing animals living on the fringe of urbanisation, to discover the diversity of mammals in the Boland, to understand the ecology of the Cape mountain leopards and to see why tracking a leopard requires patience, perseverance and perfect practice.

The focus of this initiative is on an educational, real-life research experience, where participants have the opportunity to join the Boland researchers for a day of active fieldwork. As such it is not a guided tour or an outing; it is an authentic interaction to experience a day in the life of a field researcher.

The fieldwork will entail some or all of the following activities:

Tracking a leopard and remotely downloading data

A number of leopards in the Boland mountains have been fitted with GPS radio collars. These collars record the animals’ GPS locations via satellite and store the information. The collar also emits a unique VHF radio signal by which its presence in a general area can be detected with an antenna and receiver. Tracking an animal entails driving and hiking through its known territory until the radio signal is detected. If the signal is strong enough, another handheld antenna and a downloading unit can be used to remotely communicate with the collar to download stored data. People who participate in the research experience should realize however that the likelihood of actually spotting a leopard is almost zero, and this should not be their expectation when coming on this research day.

Finding leopard feeding sites

With the help of the GPS data we can locate possible feeding sites on a map. Research experience participants have the opportunity to join the researchers on a hike (mostly off-trail through dense natural vegetation – bundu-bashing and leopard-crawling is the name of the game!) to the pinpointed location on the map. Arriving at the site the participants will help the researchers to systematically search the area to locate any evidence of prey remains (eg. hair or bones) or leopard scat (droppings) which will then be collected.

Checking and servicing camera traps

There are a number of remote-sensing cameras deployed in the Boland mountains. Participants will have the opportunity to switch memory cards and put in fresh batteries and then go through the photos obtained by the camera trap – and hopefully a spotted cat will pop up on the screen!

Groups will consist of a minimum of 2 and maximum of 6 and is not suitable for children under the age of 14.

Requested donation
R750.00 per person - which is a donation towards further research

When
Only available on set dates. The dates for June and July are as follows:

  • Tuesday, 13 August 2013
  • Tuesday, 27 August 2013
  • Thursday, 29 August 2013

It may be possible to schedule a research day for an alternative date (subject to researcher availability & weather-dependant) – please contact us for more information.

What to bring
A packed lunch, fruit or light snacks, plenty of water, and sunscreen.
What to wear
Comfortable walking shoes/boots suitable for hiking, informal light-weight long trousers (bundu-bashing for feeding sites in shorts is no fun!), warm jacket, hat/cap.
What time
The day starts at 08h00 and participants should be back at Leopard’s Leap by 17h30 latest.
How to book
Call Jeannie or Anita on 082 337 0964 or email: [email protected]

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