Last week we retrieved Drogo’s collar after he was shot by a farmer. A few days later we discovered the fate of another collared leopard.
CC, a adult female leopard, had been missing from our camera traps and we failed to establish communication with her collar since mid-October 2012. This week she was found dead in a cave.
CC had always been a prominent figure on the camera traps. She was first photographed as a cub walking with her mother, Savannah, and her siblings in 2006 by Jabu Linden (Photo below – CC front row on right).
We recorded some amazing photos on the camera traps from CC’s life and all the researchers who observed her pictures felt like they knew her and her home range. We always assumed her range was fairly safe. She spent a lot of time on Lajuma and on neighbouring properties within the Luvhondo Private Nature Reserve.
In July 2012 we collared CC and for three months we were able to watch her movements and learn about her home range. In October 2012 we couldn’t find her anywhere. Our assistants hiked through her range looking for signal from the collar for months, but with no avail.
Then in February 2012, Oldrich wanted to try again and launched an expedition into an unexplored valley to look for CC. After a day of hiking, climbing and getting stung by wasps he picked up the VHF signal. We were able to download her GPS location from the UHF receiver and we walked to the spot where she was last recorded.
The GPS point led us to a cave where her bones and the collar lay. The cave roof had prevented us from getting a signal for so long.
CC lay in a peaceful position and it was clear that she had entered the cave on her own accord and laid down and died. Upon closer inspection the cause of her death was apparent. There was a wire snare around her foot (see photo below). She had been caught in a snare which was probably set for poaching bush pigs and then bit her way to freedom. However the snare was so tight that she probably could not move well or hunt. She either died of starvation or of infection around the snare site.
It was a devastating way to die and it is shocking to think that of the three leopards who were collared by the project in mid-2012, two have already been killed by humans. The conflict and the issues surrounding these losses are so much bigger than we ever thought and we are committed to do everything we can to protect these animals. I hope that Michel and Anakin who are currently wearing collars remain safe and that I don’t have to write another blog post like this again.