The Gouritz project was initiated in September 2007, using camera traps to survey leopards in the Gamkaberg, Rooiberg and Swartberg Mountains of the Little Karoo near Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn. This will provide information on home range, population density, habitat use and diet, all of which are important aspects of the ecology of leopards in the region. In addition to our research work, we aim to educate and inform local farmers and landowners about the key role of predators in maintaining biodiversity.
What we do
The Cape Leopard Trust's Gouritz project is being conducted in the mountains of the Little Karoo around Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn. The study aims to produce the first estimate of the leopard population in this area, as well as investigating the habitat use and diet of these leopards. The main objectives of the project are to:
- Estimate the local leopard population size and density using a combination of GPS collared leopards and camera trap surveys.
- Capture and collar leopards to identify key leopard habitat areas, which can be prioritised for future conservation management
- Determine the average home range size of leopards in the area using GPS collars
- Identify possible movement corridors between the various 'core' leopard habitats in the area (e.g. the Gamkaberg/Rooiberg Mountains, the Swartberg Mountains and the Outeniqua Mountains)
- Gather data on the diet of the Gouritz leopard population
- Use camera traps to improve existing knowledge of local biodiversity and to determine the relative abundance of other medium and large mammal species in the area.
- Work with local landowners and farmers to reduce human-predator conflict and raise awareness of the role of predators in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function.
This research is being carried out by the Cape Leopard Trust, in collaboration with Rhodes University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (Saasveld) and CapeNature. All of the camera trap data feeds into CapeNature's State of Biodiversity (SOB) database, and thus contributes to formal conservation management and planning. Research from collared leopards will allow the Cape Leopard Trust's to gain valuable information on the ecology of these elusive beasts, and will also be written up for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Where we are
Our study area extends from Anysberg Nature Reserve in the west to the eastern tip of Swartberg Nature Reserve, and runs southwards to Ruitersbos Nature Reserve on the northern side of the Outeniqua Mountains. The total size of the study area is approximately 15,000 km2.
While much of our work takes place on CapeNature reserves (specifically, Gamkaberg, Groenefontein, Rooiberg, Swartberg, Towerkop, Gamkapoort, Ruitersbos and Anysberg Nature Reserves), much of the land included in our study area is privately owned. This land is predominantly used for agriculture or private nature reserves/game farms, and consequently we are heavily reliant on the support of private landowners and farmers.
At present, our activities are focussed on the Gamkaberg, Rooiberg and Swartberg mountains, which border the plain on which Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp are located. We have camera traps set up in these mountains, as well as at Anysberg Nature Reserve. Leopard trapping is currently taking place in the Gamkaberg and Rooiberg Mountains.
Since the inception of the project, we have managed to photograph over 30 leopards in the study area. Camera surveys are used to identify individual leopards. Each leopard is numbered in order of identification, and the number is preceded by the letter 'F' (female) or 'M' (male), as well as the letter 'G' to denote that the leopard was found in the Gouritz project area e.g. GM2 is the second male leopard to have been identified by the Gouritz project. Some of these leopards have been given their own non-scientific names as well. As each leopard has a unique spot pattern, a left and right hand photograph are needed in order to establish an identikit. Camera surveys are still underway throughout the study area, to obtain seasonal variation for each area, and to continue with the project's objectives.
For a full list and pictures of the Gouritz leopards, click here.
If you would like to contact the Cape Leopard Trust, you can do so by sending an email to email@example.com. To contact the Gouritz project directly, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to support the research and conservation in our Gouritz project, click here. You will be able to contribute directly to this project by looking at our wish list, or you can donate to the Cape Leopard Trust as an organisation.