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Leopard Conservation News!

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Leopard Conservation News!

The Cape Leopard Trust Newsletter
March 2006
We would like to update you on some new developments. This newsletter is a little longer than usual, but you would be hard done by if all of this exciting news was not shared with you

WE HAVE FINALLY CAUGHT HIM!! As you may have gathered from our previous news or updates on our website, we have captured and collared “Johan” – the “Main Man” of the Red Cederberg. This happened on the 23rd of February. He weighed in at a hefty 45kg and is in outstanding condition. He was caught in a superbly constructed cage trap made by Jaco van Deventer, a Cape Nature (CN) colleague of ours. Rika du Plessis (CN) was once again on hand to assist in this capture procedures. Pictured above from left: Willem, Rika, Johan & Quinton.

As a matter of interest, “Johan” was our very first leopard photographed at 23h19 on the 23rd May 2004! Since then we have captured 51 photographs of this elusive and charismatic leopard. I have often tracked him, and although I had never seen him prior to his capture, I know HE has seen me. On the 26th August 2004, Leopards Leap Wines and Africa Geographic magazine went into partnership “adopting” and naming him after our founding trust member Johan van der Westhuizen. This may all seem old hat to some of you, but what certainly isn’t, is the information we will be getting from this GPS collar. Thus far, our camera trap surveys have indicated that he is utilizing a massive area which is certainly greater than 400km2. Previous work estimated ranges of between 40 & 70km2. The GPS fixes will give us an accurate idea of how big his home range really is.

We are receiving unbelievably valuable data from Houdini’s GPS collar. To-date we have downloaded 860 GPS points showing latitude, longitude, time, altitude and temperature. By separating this data, we can for example, see when his activity peaks are. This information gathered so far corresponds with our data showing a preference for nocturnal movement in the Cederberg. We would expect a variation of this in winter – we will see…

GPS Collars
Our aim is to purchase several lighter collars that we can use on the much smaller female leopards. This would give us ample opportunities to discover and view den sites, get a better idea of cub mortality and general ecology of leopards in the western Cape Folded Mountains. We would have had an opportunity to collar a female caught in our traps in January, but she turned out to be too young to collar. Trapping has been suspended till the smaller collars arrive.

Nicole’s Genetic work
Nicole is enjoying a lovely, rainy, freezing Norwegian winter. I have offered for her to return to sunny SA – to no avail. Her dedication to her work is unsurpassed so she will hang in there, endure the sniffles and snow so that she can complete her Masters thesis. This will be the longest four month wait since I counted the days to my 5th birthday.

Dassie study
We have an American student, Sarah Smith, coming out from Colorado State University to conduct a preliminary study on the health of our Dassie (Rock Hyrax) populations here in the Cederberg. Why dassies? Well, they are a common prey species for leopards as well as other predators such as caracal and Black Eagle. Their populations have also shown a dramatic decline over the past 20 odd years. This may be a natural cycle, but may be due to unknown viruses in the population, as this cyclical variation is generally only found in northern hemisphere populations of animals. Dr Bill Horsnell, an expert immunologist from the University of Cape Town, will assist Sarah in this project. Jaco van Deventer (Cape Nature) will help us with the practical elements of capturing these guys in cage traps so as not to do any destructive sampling.

CLT Employment
Willem Titus, a resident from the Eselbank/Langkloof region of the Cederberg, is our chosen candidate beginning his apprenticeship as a field assistant with the CLT. RMB & the GCBC have sponsored his salary. All I can say is we have chosen the right man for the job! Within the first 2 weeks I had him typing up his notes on our computer – this from a 25yr old STD 6 graduate who has never used a computer before! He is getting in some driving experience in Frikkadel & we hope he gets his drivers license soon. From catching leopards to handling reptiles, nothing seems beyond this enthusiastic young man’s capabilities. We will keep you updated on his progress.

Anatolian dog sponsorship
News on our two Anatolian dogs sponsored:
Tabs (sponsored by Margaret Baran): - Hennie & Rienie Spamer of Driehoek (Cederberg) are doing a great job of taking care of Tabs. She is doing very well so far & we have noted from the GPS collar information of “Houdini” that he has walked close to where she and the sheep hang out but has not taken a chance to test her strength or dedication to her flock.

Sheba (Sponsored by Peter Braat)- Feedback from Barend Le Roux (CN) who is monitoring her progress on Ampie Albetyn’s Overberg farm – “In general I am happy with Ampie and Sheba's progress thus far and think that Ampie is doing a great job.”

Well there you have it! Pip Niewoudt’s 2 dogs in the Cederberg are also continuing to work well in the field with him having ZERO stock losses.

Search for the extinct Zanzibar Leopard
Nicole & I were commissioned by the IUCN, WWF, EWT, CI, WCS and all other conservation based organizations worldwide to conduct a week long search for the extinct Zanzibar leopard (WE WISH!). We headed out to the island on the 15th of January anyway. The results of the search proved that, while soaking up the sun, sipping exotic cocktails and eating delicious seafood on the beaches of the North coast, we managed to find one leopard – PAWS! Actually, truth be told, we seriously needed a holiday, and this is the wonderful island where Nicole & I eloped to just over 4 years ago. We had a fantastic break.


Greenstone Productions – Trent’s Wildcat Adventures
A few weeks ago, I was set upon by a group of Kiwi’s – a film crew out to film the work the CLT is doing on leopards. This was not an attempt to study strategies used by various predator-named rugby teams in SA, but for an actual wildlife program in New Zealand. Trent, the star of the program, and I had a great time hiking in the mountains tracking Houdini. I expect the camera crew were certainly not as carefree and happy - having to lug their very heavy and expensive equipment up & down our mountain sides in very hot conditions. All in all, it was a good 4 days which included a fantastic Bateleurs Flight with Johan Ferreira – more on this below.

Bart Smithers and his trusty intern, Muffin, have completed their work towards the 50/50 program. We are just waiting on when it will be aired. Bart has done some classic programs, including an anti-whaling documentary and how rats sniff out land-mines in Mozambique. We cannot wait to see what he has done with this one…

Die Burger
Jorisna Bonthuys went all out to do a series of comprehensive articles on the CLT’s work & CN’s move to abolish gin traps and educate farmers regarding a more holistic approach to problem animal control. The fantastic articles appeared in the Burger on the 7th March.

I have recently had several opportunities to conduct presentations at various venues and events. Just to mention the most recent:

CC Africa invited us to do a presentation so as to become more involved in our next anniversary event – By the way this year’s anniversary event will be AMAZING!!! Ok then…even MORE amazing than last year!

I was invited by Leopards Leap Wines to do a presentation to a group of 80 guests at Reuben’s restaurant in Franschhoek – you can just imagine – rough! Cocktails, 5 course meal, great wines…Mmm.

Next up - BushmansKloof Wilderness Reserve invited Nicole and I to their conservation weekend. Being in Norway, Nicole could of course, not make it, so I had to endure the pampering ALL ALONE! Who said this life we lead is rough…Everyone had a brilliant time, attending fascinating talks on Cape Mountain Zebra (by Peter Lloyd – CLT Trustee & CN Scientific services); Indigenous Fish of the Western Cape (Dean Impson, CN); walks; a classic caracal sighting on a kill; flyfishing…

I attended our second meeting of the SALF at the EWT head office in Jo'burg on the 3rd of February. This proved to be a very productive exercise and we are working well together towards the preservation of the species. Thanks to the EWT for allowing us to use their venue in Johannesburg.

On Wednesday (15th) I will do a presentation concerning our work within the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor. This will include feedback on our recent expedition to the Tankwa National Park to set up a leopard presence/absence survey (& see if we can photograph a supposed “Black leopard” sighted in the area). Regarding the latter, my sneaky suspicion is that it is actually a caracal that has been sunburnt black in this very hot and hostile environment.

The EWT & CN are hosting a workshop on the holistic management of human-wildlife conflict in South Africa in April. I will be attending this very important 3 day meeting and will certainly provide insight into the process and outcomes in our following newsletter. Leopards Leap Wines are sponsoring all the wine for our first night “Ice Breaker”.

BATELEURS - Flying for Conservation (
First off – resounding congratulations to Nora Kreher (chairperson for the Bateleurs) for winning the prestigious Audi Terra Nova Award. She is truly Brilliant!! Well Done!!!
The Bateleurs continue playing a vital role in our project, enabling us to track our collared leopards with ease from the air. Johan Ferreira and Jock Kannemeyer are always supportive and accommodating – never hesitating to fly when we need it. Our most recent flight was with Johan and the Kiwi film crew in the Rolls Royce of bush aircrafts – the Cessna Caravan. We were in the air for about 90min and captured some great aerial footage of the area and of us tracking our 2 leopards. Flying high over the Tankwa Karoo was stunning, but did not prepare us for this harsh, but beautiful area we drove into this past week.

Africa Geographic competition winners
Mark & Lindsey Burgess were the lucky winners of the Africa Geographic competition where CC Africa (Londolozi), Mount Ceder and Keurbosfontein (Johan van der Westhuizen’s Bakkrans) sponsored accommodation for them. Johan & I guided them on their trip in the Cederberg. It was great and these were really two deserving winners.

Rand Merchant Bank/Leopards Leap
I am still hopping around like a leopard on Tankwa Karoo rocks in summer - waiting to acquire our new sponsored vehicle. Last year, RMB provided us with R100 000 towards a research vehicle for the project. We have in the interim tried to get co-sponsorship from various vehicle manufacturers, however, as has been the case for the past 2 years, conservation plays an insignificant role for most, and what with all those great bundu bashing 4x4’s running around…! (this would exclude the valuable contribution the Mazda Wildlife Fund makes to conservation).
Well, not all has been lost – Leopards Leap Wines have, Mmmm, leapt, to the occasion and provided us with an additional R80 000 to help find a suitable means of transport (and a medical aid scheme) for the trust – we will, as previously mentioned, call our second vehicle “Koeksister” – named after all things sweet – it is also a popular item on any Cederberg menu.
Latest news is that we may have found a vehicle to purchase at a very good price – I will have to let you know the outcome in our next newsletter.

Leopard Adoption
The "Pantereus" foundation in the Netherlands ( have recently adopted F6 and opted to sponsor her GPS collar as well – i.e. if we are able to capture her. This is a fantastic contribution – we hope that we can catch this girl whose home range falls well within “Johan’s” territory. We also have pics of her with “Johan” over a 4 day period. It is possible she may have had cubs in mid-January…

Carole & Rex Harland
The Harland’s came out on a leopard tracking trip with me in the Cederberg last year. Although they were bounced and battered around in Frikkadel in some pretty chilly weather, they were incredibly enthused by the project. On returning to the UK, they arranged a series of dinners with friends as a means to raise funds for the CLT! Leopards Leap heard about this & sent them some wine – sounds like they all had an absolute ball, and soon after we received a generous donation from the UK!! Amazing!

Cage traps
Mike Snethlage of FlexiPave approached us offering us assistance after our Carte Blanche program was aired. Since then he has built and sponsored several leopard cage traps to the CLT. The traps are all built to the specifications of the cages Jaco van Deventer has designed and built. We in turn have sponsored 3 of these traps to CN for use in the West Coast region (Porterville CN base). Mike has been integral in the design and making of the anti-baboon rubbish-bins seen around the Western Cape. Below: Mike & Quinton

Karl Westwig
Just after our last newsletter, the CLT received yet another generous donation from Karl and Gabbi Westwig (&kids) – R10 000. Many thanks for this amazing support.

Premier Auto Rondebosch
Frikkadel (our bakkie) had some pampering over the festive season – Harty Korsch, Rudi Opperman and Richard were on hand to provide some well needed TLC while Nicole & I were away for a week. And what was the outcome – a very happy, shiny Suzuki jeep – with an almost Non-existent bill. These guys are amazing! Thank you.

Southfield Auto Electrical
Andre, his father and Delmaine run a brilliant shop and have once again provided the CLT (& Frikkadel) with some well needed attention – ALL FOR FREE. I have been using Southfield for all my safari vehicle electrical needs for almost 10 yrs and it is great to see the generosity Andre has extended to the project.

Camtrap Sponsorships
James Wells is a new camera trap sponsor while Jessie Middelmann and Paul Middlemann have both renewed their sponsorship for 2006. We have only recently put our cameras back out in the field, so results should start pouring in soon. Exciting news is that we should be getting some interesting pics from the Tankwa National park as well.

Thanks must go to Mrs R Picotti and RM Jones for their generous donations to the CLT.

Outward Ventures
Thanks to Jeff & co for all their help with my hiking boots & camping gear. You guys have been really great!

A Special Thanks must go to ALL of our supporters for having the faith in our ability to make a difference with this project. We will continue to do our very best and put all our effort into work that is crucial to our precious environment. If we have neglected to thank any person who should have been included in this newsletter – PLEASE let us know so we can include you in our next newsletter.

Kindest regards and best wishes

Quinton & Nicole Martins
Project Managers

Project Sponsors:

Sponsors (R250 000 plus):
Rand Merchant Bank

Sponsors (R100 000 – R250 000):
Bergen University
Eco Aire - Peter Turnbull
Leopards Leap – Historic Wines
Polaris Capital

Sponsors (R50 000 - R100 000):
Africa Geographic
Bushmans Kloof
Engel & Volkers
Rufford Small Grant

Sponsors ((R10 000 - R50 000)
Auction Alliance
Cape Nature (House Rental)
CC Africa
Citrusdal Cellars
Fuji Film
Karl Westvig
Mount Ceder
Photo Connection
Premier Auto Group Rondebosch
Sean Caulfield
Sohn, Gordon, Martins, Brandford Attorneys
Stellenbosch University
Two Oceans Aquarium

Camera Trap Sponsors:
Birding Africa; Boland Eco-4's; Hooper Family; Ian Michler; Jessie Middelmann; Land Cruiser Club of SA;Lehr Family; Mountain Club of SA; Paul & Kim Woulfe; Paul & Lindsay Middelmann; Peggy Whitson ; Ubuntu Trust

Leopard Adoptions:
"Johan" - Leopards Leap Wines/Africa Geographic
"Lisa" - Leopards Leap Wines/Africa Geographic
"Ouma Maaitjie" - Leopards Leap Wines/Africa Geographic
"Houdini" - Eco Aire/Peter Turnbull
"Max" - Oelz Family
"Oom Arrie" - Engel & Volkers
F6 - "Pantereus" foundation

[b]Anatolian Shepherd Dog sponsorship
Margaret Baran - sponsored "Tabs" working at Driehoek (Cederberg
Peter Braat - sponsored Sheba to Ampie Albertyn in Botriver.

Avalon Springs; Melissa Baird; Cederberg Conservancy; Cederberg Wines; Cheetah Outreach; Clara Anna Fontein; Gate-7; Gerald Hinde; Guy Hayward; Harley Davidson (Cape Town); Haw & Inglis (Pty); Louis Kienle; Photo Connection; Picto; MunYaWana Leopard Project; Neil Jowell; RCS; Sandown Motor Holdings; Sean Caulfield; Steve Tugwell;!Khwa

Fani's picture
Joined: Feb 18 2006

Thanks Tabs for the news....Leopard news are always interesting Laughing out loud

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