We are currently running the 2016 Soutpansberg camera trap survey, in collaboration with Panthera. Panthera is an organisation that strives to conserve felids around the world. They are working in partnership with the Limpopo Department for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET) to enhance leopard management in the province, and ultimately across South Africa. Panthera is surveying seven sites across Limpopo for six weeks per year over a 10 year period in order to determine trends in leopard density. We are assisting them to run their surveys at one of these sites – a 220 km² area in the Soutpansberg mountains. This complements the existing PPP camera trapping study, which covers a smaller area (60 km²), but is operational permanently. We have braved mud, vehicle breakdowns, and countless unflattering photos of us maintaining the camera traps, but we have now almost completed the 2016 survey.
Finn, the youngest PPP Research Assistant, helped to check the cameras. Here he holds a signed book by Dr Alan Rabinowitz, the Panthera CEO.
Until now only two annual Panthera surveys have been conducted in the Soutpansberg, so it is still early days to detect trends in leopard density from these data. But as the project progresses we will be able to see how leopards are responding to the management strategies implemented. LEDET has already implemented Panthera’s recommendations to increase the sustainability of leopard trophy hunting, such as removing females from hunting quotas and ensuring that hunts distributed across the province rather than being clumped in certain areas. Panthera and LEDET will continue to improve leopard management, such as the way in which damage causing animals are dealt with, and curbing illegal activity relating to leopards. It is a privilege to collaborate with Panthera and LEDET on this initiative and to contribute towards leopard conservation on a provincial and national scale. We would like to say a big thank all the landowners for their support, and leave you with a few images from the 2016 survey.
Setting up the camera traps
Erin hoeing, clearing vegetation from around the camera stations
Driving to check the camera traps
Checking the camera traps – say cheese!
A leopard walks at sundrise
A young leopard inspects the camera
A brown hyaena carries its dinner home
Baboons love a good selfie!
A young porcupine follows its mother