Lajuma is a beautiful, serene and peaceful place. We have an incredibly diverse array of species living here, being protected here. At night we hear leopards calling and bushbucks barking. In the morning the baboons wake us up as they walk through camp.
It is easy to forget that this peaceful existence is not the reality for many of these animals once they leave Ian Gaigher’s property and other properties on the mountain which are managed with a similar mentality. Human-wildlife conflict is threatening many of these animals but specifically, leopards, baboons and vervet monkeys who are known to raid farms for livestock or fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately there is no easy solution to this complex issue. Humans farm in and around the Soutpansberg Mountains and need to make a living. Leopards have huge home ranges and need to hunt to survive. They often end up entering farmlands on the foothills of the Soutpansberg and at these locations they can kill livestock or are scapegoats for losses. Farmers who need to protect their investments will kill leopards by shooting, poisoning or snaring.
Sadly Drogo, a big adult male leopard, who we have been monitoring since July 2011 on our camera traps and with a GPS collar was shot last month by a farmer.
From the first photos we saw of Drogo we were impressed by his stature and size. A year after we first photographed him, we caught and collared him. The data we accrued from this collar astounded us. He was ranged far down onto the farmlands below on a regular basis and covered an area of about 120 km2.
Yesterday we retrieved his collar and spoke to the farmer who shot him. We were sympathetic to the reasons behind his actions but saddened by the loss of such a beautiful animal.
This incident symbolises the essence of what our project is about. Loosing Drogo will fuel our fight to learn more about primates and predators in this important ecological region and to find solutions which will both protect animals and people.