Leopards of the Cape - Small Cats with Big Problems
Leopards of the Cape: Small Cats with Big Problems
When Europeans first arrived at the Cape, there were many large mammals – elephants, rhinos, eland, lions, hyenas and leopards…
Of these, only leopards remain. They have survived in the rugged mountain wilderness areas that are still relatively untouched by human development.
Human – wildlife conflict is a worldwide problem. In the Cape, the main conflict involving leopards is with sheep farmers.
Where and when available, sheep are sometimes killed by leopards. In retaliation, leopards are sometimes killed by farmers.
Many other animals are inadvertently killed in traps in the process.
The Cape Leopard Trust Conservation Research Education Tourism In 2004 the Cape Leopard Trust was formed as a conservation organisation, to do research on the little-known Cape mountain leopards, and find solutions to these human-wildlife conflict situations.
In order to study these elusive creatures, cameras with movement sensors were used to survey leopards in the Cederberg Mountains. Studying elusive carnivores
Leopards each have their own unique spot pattern, much like our fingerprints. This makes it possible to identify individual leopards and count them so as to estimate fairly accurately the population size in an area. There are about 25 adult leopards in an area of 3000 km2 in the Cederberg.
Spot the difference? These are four separate photographs taken at different locations. Are any of the leopards the same individual?
Setting cages to catch leopards In order to better understand the leopards and their needs, it was necessary to catch them and collar them with GPS radio collars.
Cage traps are monitored twice daily. In the infrequent event that a leopard is caught, a vet is called in immediately and the animal is darted.
The leopard is weighed and measured, a small tissue sample is taken to extract DNA, and a GPS collar secured.
It is then placed in a holding cage until it is fully awake, when it is released back into the wild.
Cape mountain leopards are unique in many ways…
They are small - half the size of other African leopards. Average Mass Leopards in Kruger: Leopards in Cederberg: Male: 61 kg Male:34 kg Female: 37 kg Female: 20 kg
They are small - half the size of other African leopards. <ul><ul><li>Because of their size, they are not considered a threat to humans. There are no records of attacks on people. However, if cornered or protecting their young, they could be very dangerous. </li></ul></ul>Average Mass Leopards in Kruger: Leopards in Cederberg: Male: 61 kg Male:34 kg Female: 37 kg Female: 20 kg
Their territories are massive - over 10 times the size of other African leopards. Average Home Ranges Leopards in Kruger: Leopards in Cederberg: Male: 25 - 50km2 Male: 200 – 1000km2 Female: 10 - 25km2 Female: 80 – 180km2
Clanwilliam o o Bushman’s Kloof Algeria o o Matjiesrivier Mount Ceder o o Op die Berg Citrusdal o o Wupperthal GPS points show the home ranges of male leopards that have been collared in the Cederberg. Leopards do not share their territories with other leopards of the same sex. There are 2 - 4 females per male.
Clanwilliam o o Bushman’s Kloof Algeria o o Matjiesrivier Mount Ceder o o Op die Berg Citrusdal o o Wupperthal The ‘red’ leopard died and a new male, the ‘yellow’ leopard, filled his territory almost exactly. This is one of the problems with killing or relocating leopards – it does not solve the problem, a new one invariably takes over.
GPS points for the male ‘Apache’, showing how he uses the landscape. Note the lack of points in the open valley. They prefer the rocky slopes.
GPS points for the male ‘Oom Arrie’ show how leopards in the Karoo tend to use the waterways.
The Cape leopard’s diet consists primarily of klipspringers and dassies (>70%), with other animals like porcupines, duiker and rodents making up the rest. Contrary to popular belief, baboons are rarely eaten. Leopard Prey
Conflict Solutions: Alpacas Herders When sheep are unprotected, they are available for leopards and other predators to feed on and therefore on their “menu”. The Cape Leopard Trust believes that the only real solution to these problems is to take livestock off the predator’s menu. This is easier said than done, but there are some things that work… Anatolian dogs
We know that the current methods of predator control are not working. It is also clear that it is important to keep a balance in nature and that when people disrupt it they usually suffer the consequences. Together with farmers, we are seeking solutions.
Solutions that will allow sheep and leopards to live side by side...
Through all we do we hope to inspire people to appreciate the wilderness, to experience it in new ways and to care about what happens to it. With this in mind, we also run an education programme, holding environmental camps, primarily for children, in the Cederberg Mountains. Education Programme