Cape Leopard under threat!
A snared leopard that was found on the Lourensford Wine Estate has presented an opportunity for co-operative management between conservation authorities, research professionals and private land owners in order to protect Cape Town’s leopard population.
On Monday 17 September 2012, Biodiversity Management staff from the City’s Environmental Resource Management Department responded to a call from managers of the Lourensford Wine Estate located in the Helderberg mountains. A male leopard had been caught in a snare thought to have been placed by illegal poachers, probably attempting to hunt small antelope species.
City Biodiversity Management staff accompanied Lourensford’s Biodiversity Manager, Johan West, to the site where the leopard was trapped. The Cape Leopard Trust was also contacted immediately to assist.
The trust, established by Dr Quinton Martins, already has a relationship with the City’s Biodiversity Management branch and has been involved in a camera trapping study of Cape Leopards (Panthera pardus) across the Boland Mountains, including portions of City-owned land.
Boland Leopard Project Co-ordinators, Jeannie Hayward and Anita Meyer, met up with the team accompanied by Dr Andrew Grey, veterinarian from Drakenstein Veterinary Clinic, who also assists with the project. A quick assessment was made regarding the condition of the trapped animal and an action plan implemented.
The City’s Biodiversity Manager for the Helderberg Area, Owen Wittridge, darted the animal so that it could be released from the snare and its injuries attended to. A deep laceration around the middle of the animal caused by the tightening of the snare required cleaning and stitching, which was completed successfully.
A tracking collar was also fitted so that the leopard’s recovery could be closely monitored. The collar data will contribute to Jeannie Hayward’s PhD with the Cape Leopard Trust and the University of Cape Town. The focus of her work is to determine leopard abundance, feeding habits, and habitat use, as well as the effects that human habitation, landscape fragmentation, habitat perturbation and fire have on leopards.
The information from research studies like this is extremely important for the management of protected areas. Researchers are able to provide valuable information which aids managers of the nature reserve in the complex decision-making required to manage our delicate ecosystems.
Cape Town is extremely privileged to still have a population of free-roaming Cape Leopards residing in its mountains. These areas form only a very small part of the leopards’ home range and it is important that City Biodiversity Managers maintain such research relationships, like the one with the Cape Leopard Trust, to ensure the preservation of the species in our area.
“Even though few of us have seen a Cape leopard, it is very exciting to learn that they still occur in the mountains around Cape Town. This is the second time that leopards have been sighted in recent months. The other occasion was when one of two leopards was unfortunately hit by a vehicle on Clarence Drive. The City of Cape Town is pleased to be able to assist in saving the life of the leopard at Lourensford. We look forward to reading the results of Dr Martins’ and Ms Hayward’s studies to see how the City can possibly assist to conserve this beautiful apex predator,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Alderman Belinda Walker.
The Cape Leopard is viewed as an umbrella species. By conserving this far-ranging apex predator, many other smaller species of flora and fauna are also conserved.
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