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cape leopards

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Cape Leopards?  Leopards in the mountains around Calitzdorp? Really?  Is it possible? 

A frequently asked question which was laid to rest for once and for all  during the 2012- 2013 major upgrading of the Huisrivier Pass just outside the town.

YES WE DO HAVE THEM! – very rare and few and far between, but there!

 

Cape Leopard number GM04

Cape Leopard number GM04

 

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Gouritz leopard_06Much to the excitement of locals and delight of conservationists, there was open proof that leopards are still resident in the gorges and kloofs of these mountains. To the astonishment of the workers managing a stop/go point on the construction site, a leopard crossed the road right in front of them. Looking up at the towering, craggy, surrounding fold rock mountains, it is not hard to imagine leopards living there.

Sightings are extremely rare, especially in broad daylight, as these animals are usually solitary, very few and far between and extremely shy.

ARE THEY DANGEROUS?

They are wild animals and as such should be treated with caution. They could be dangerous if protecting their young. However, there has not been a single report of an attack on humans by a Cape leopard.  So if you are fortunate enough to see one, be still and quiet and enjoy the rare honour very few will experience.

CALITZDORP IS RIGHT IN THE CENTRE OF THE GOURITZ PROJECT AREA

We are proud that these wild predators still live out in our mountains and are not only found behind fences in Gouritz project area mapprotected game reserves, like most other predatory animals. Cape Leopard Trust is doing its utmost not only to keep it that way, but to further the leopards’ chances of survival.
Cape Leopard Trust began their research into the Cape Leopard populations in their Gouritz Project in September 2007. in collaboration with Rhodes University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (Saasveld) and Cape Nature.

The study area extends from Anysberg Nature Reserve in the west to the eastern tip of Swartberg Nature Reserve, and runs southwards to Ruitersbos Nature Reserve on the northern side of the Outeniqua Mountains. The total size of the study area is approximately 15,000 km2.

Camera traps were set up for this survey in the Gamkaberg, Rooiberg and Swartberg Mountains of the Little Karoo near Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn. The purpose is to

  • identify population density using a combination of GPS collared leopards and camera trap surveys.
  • Determine average home range sizes by tracking the GPS collared animals.
  • Identify diet and habitat use for future conservation management
  • To work with and inform local farmers and landowners about the key role these predators play in maintaining biodiversity.
  • To identify the routes or ‘corridors’ between the various mountain areas such as the Gamkaberg/Rooiberg Gouritz leopard_05Mountains, the Swartberg Mountains and the Outeniqua Mountains
  • The use of camera traps also informs the researchers what other larger animals are also part of the ecosystem of the area.

First leopard captured in Calitzdorp

A fully grown male weighing about 35 kg (average for a Cape leopard) was caught on the Groenefontein Nature Reserve just a month after the project had started. In the presence of a veterinary surgeon he was darted and collared on site with a GPS tracking device.

This particular leopard had previously been photographed 25 kms away from where he was captured, illustrating the vastness of his territory.

Animals have been captured and collared to assist with the research, and each one is faithfully recorded – there have been live identifications as well as more than 30 leopard caught on camera trap photos.

The Gouritz animals are coded with the letter G for Gouritz, F or M for female or male and the number stating the sequence in which it was recorded eg GM1 for the first Gouritz male.

The Gouritz Corridor  project is run from Cape Leopard Trust’s base at the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve.

The Cape Leopard is a small animal as can be seen from the photo (right) where a tracking collar is being fitted.  cape leoprd being collaredIt is probably the size of a large dog – and is half the size and weight of its Kruger Park cousins. Its prey is small mammals such as a rock hyrax (dassie) or klipspringer.
The average weight of a female is about 20 kg and that of a male around 35kg. They have vastly larger home ranges than the Kruger Park leopards. In the Kruger male leopards territory range is between 25 – 50 km², females 10 – 25 km², while the Cape Leopard males home territory is between 200 and 1000 km² and females 80 – 180km².

Are the Cape leopards endangered?

Because of their low densities, large home ranges and limited suitable habitat, leopards in the Cape are far more threatened than many other leopard populations

SUPPORT CAPE LEOPARD TRUST GOURITZ PROJECT   Help to protect the leopards in the mountains around our town.

measuring front paw printsMale leopard track,
measuring the front paw print

 

Main information and all photos courtesy of the
CAPE LEOPARD TRUST