Source: Cape Times, Monday June 14th 2010 – Craig McKune
NEW “camera trap” photographs, part of a project studying leopard populations in the mountains surrounding Cape Town, have confirmed the predators survive within the city boundaries. Up to 50 heat and motion-triggered cameras, set up in the Boland mountains, have been working “day and night” , rain or “sunshine” since March, shooting nocturnal and elusive animals from Porterville in the north to Betty’s Bay on the south. About 10 of these cameras, paid for by the City of Cape Town, have been set up in the mountains, near Somerset West, and late last week images were captured of an adult male and an adult female leopard in the Kogelberg Blosphere Reserve.
The project is part of a broader leopard population density stuffy by the Cape Leopard Trust. The trust studies leopards in Namaqualand, the Cederberg and the Gouritz region. “This is probably one of the biggest leopard surveys in the world,” said the trust’s Quinton Martins. “The Boland is out fourth project. It started earlier this year, and results are just starting to come in now.”
Hayley-May Wittridge of the city’s biodiversity management branch and manager of the Kogelberg reserve, said her staff were also collecting records of leopard activity within the city boundary, including sightings, scats and tracks.
The camera images proved more than one animal use the area, she said. Martins said they expected to find, on average, one adult leopard in every 100km2. “The estimated range for a single adult male in the fynbos is between 200km2 and 600km2 depending on the terrain.” The range of one male would include those of about two females, Martins said.
Of the Kogelberg leopards, he said: “Both look in very good condition. The males are usually in better condition then the females. One of the reasons is they don’t have to look after the young.”
The leopards eat mainly dassies and small antelope, and a female caring for her cubs would have to share her valuable kills, taking a toll in lean times. Martines said Cape Leopards did not live off baboons. “They (make up) less then 3 percent of the leopards diet.”
Martins said Cape Leopards were about half the size of the bushland counterparts. This was probably because of their smaller prey in the Western Cape. “And these leopards pose no threat to people,” he said. The biggest threat is that the leopards’ natural habitat is becoming smaller, more degraded and more disturbed as the Western Cape human population booms and industry, infrastructure, agriculture and homes spread.
Martins said conflict with farmers was also a problem. Anyone wanting to help the project may visit the Cape Leopard Trusts website. www.capeleopard.org.za