We’re working on an exciting new experience for our guests: tracking the Cape leopard! The graceful animal once populated the mountains in the winelands in great numbers, though now diminished, the leopard still continues to prowl at night, through fynbos, over rocky outcrops in search of prey.
The official blurb: ‘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.’
Linda Coltart, our GM, recently went on an excursion that saw her ‘leopard crawling’, inspecting the big cat’s kill sites and camera traps as well as simply enjoying the wild beauty of the Boland mountains.
We caught up with Linda, to find out what the experience entailed:
Tracking a leopard and remotely downloading data
A number of leopards in the Boland mountains have been fitted with GPS radio collars. Through various radio signal we picked up a leopards presence almost immediately. Tracking the 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.
The idea of this project is to obtain research information and the likelihood of actually spotting a leopard is almost zero.
Finding leopard feeding sites
With the help of the GPS data we located 5 feeding sites. We joined the researchers on a hike (mostly off-trail through dense natural vegetation – bundu-bashing and leopard-crawling was the name of the game!) to the pinpointed location on the map. Arriving at the site we helped the researchers to systematically search the area to locate any evidence of prey remains (eg. hair or bones) or leopard scat which we then be collected. At the 5 feeding spots we found 1 porcupine, 1 baboon and 3 grysbok
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—and with my experience it did! On two of the cameras we saw very recent sightings.
A very big thank you to Anita and Jeannie for allowing us to share in very special and beautiful day, I felt very privileged.
For more photos from the day, head over to our Facebook page.