21 October, 2011

With the Cape Leopard Trust at Driehoek

Imagine you are hiking in the Cederberg. Ahead of you is a red flag.

Warning flags for leopard traps at Driehoek in the Cederberg

As you get closer, you read about Cape Leopards.

Leopard trapping signs

Leopard trapping signs for hikers

In September the Ungardener was at Driehoek volunteering with the Cape Leopard Trust. Stock farmers battle predators. Old stone traps remain from days when the animals were caught, and killed. Leopards were removed, while ‘their conservation status remained uncertain’. The Trust works with farmers to find solutions, such as Anatolian shepherd dogs.

Old stone trap for leopards

The Trust began with metal cage/box traps, but is concerned about possible damage to claws and teeth before adding a radio collar, then returning the animal to life in the wild.

Former cage trap for leopards

Dr Quinton Martins  of the Cape Leopard Trust is testing a foot-loop trap for large cats, a technique refined by American Dairen Simpson.

Dr Quinton Martins
at a new trap on the hiking trail

The new traps are set along hiking trails, or baited. Paths are made by animals, we follow. Sympathisers might feel triggering the trap allows another leopard to live, but the leopards, once caught, are radio collared then released. In time, the batteries go flat, and the process must be repeated.

Vehicle of the Cape Leopard Trust

While Jurg was monitoring the trap, came a signal, caught something! Each trap has a transmitter, volunteers check the signal every 1-3 hours. Phone Dr Martins. There is a river to cross on the way to the trap. Where they meet 2 elderly hikers. She asks for a lift across the river! We are in a hurry to get to that trap!! Once they get there, the trap is empty. Paw prints show a baboon was caught, but they, can release themselves. Any doubt was cancelled, by the troop of baboons on the ridge, yelling and swearing at those %$#&ing people! While they are resetting the trap, along come those same hikers. But, we asked you to avoid the flag!!   

Jurg doing telemetry
Listening for leopards!

A signal from a radio collar! Q says the leopard is staying in one place, he has made a kill. J, Q and his wife Elizabeth, hike up the mountain. By the time they arrive, the leopard is gone. The kill was a juvenile klipspringer. The wiry coat, looking like the bristles of a scrubbing brush, is soft but thick – intended to protect the buck from sharp rocks. The leopard carefully plucks the fur, and left nothing but the lower jaw with its teeth.

Klipspringer killed by a leopard

The Land Rover proudly wears its newly earned badge at Driehoek.

Volunteering for the Cape Leopard Trust at Driehoek

Dr Martins has only seen 7 uncollared wild leopards in 8 years. 
Even with collars, he only sees a few each year.  
Jurg is still hoping, next time?
In October, caught, on the camera trap!

At Driehoek

Adopt a Spot. Q is currently trying to collar Sneaky Pete, and Spot needs a collar with a new battery.

I believe the future of nature conservation lies with teaching the children. One day, when that child sits behind a desk with the power to sign away – a wetland or  the last surviving habitat of … I want to know that once, a little girl or boy learnt the fascination and delight of a wildflower blooming, a bird singing, a buck pausing close enough to hear it snorting. Elizabeth Martins runs children’s wilderness camps for the Cape Leopard Trust.

Pictures by Jurg,
words by Diana of Elephant's Eye
- wildlife gardening in Porterville,
near Cape Town in South Africa
(If you mouse over brown text,
it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.) 


  1. wow, wonderful post! Thankyou for sharing this,, amazing photography as well,

  2. I think if I saw that sign I would give it a wide bearth :-)
    Your post was very interesting.Good to see conservation replacing destruction.

  3. Great post and thank you for devoting time and energy to conservation

  4. Hi,
    Very interesting post,full of information. Keep up the good work, so important!
    All the best,
    xoxo Ingrid

  5. Very interesting post. I agree wholeheartedly with your last paragraph! Children must learn the planet belongs to all of us, and it is our duty to responsibly manage it.

  6. hmmm sounds like a fun job to do this, but I bet its tiring to have to recapture the cats again. Can't the use like sun rechargeable devices or something ?

  7. Great post Diana! Same old story the world over. People move in and push wildlife to the edges. How the caught animals must suffer in those traps. You are so right about teaching children . . . Let's just hope they will remember when the time comes. Let's hope that we can act and save wild habitats and animals that so need them . . . so that when our children's children grow up they will be able to continue the fight to preserve. We have collared bears here . . . all of us living so close together.

  8. Very interesting Diana - Thanks to you my business has just donated to the "Adopt a Spot" programme I found on their website. Very worthwhile cause.

  9. Christine - you and I in the Cape are grateful that there are still leopards here.

    Thank you.

  10. Diana, I couldn't agree more that education for young children is the key to change. They are so open to information when they are young and as you point out, soon enough they will be making decisions that may affect us all.

  11. I hope the Ungardener eventually gets a leopard. Is it sedated while the collar is put on? Will he get a chance to do it himself if so?

    Congratulations on the Rover's new badge.

  12. Jihan - we'll ask Dr Martins about the battery.

    Bom - when the leopard is caught, Dr Martins and a vet will be there to sedate, care for, and collar the animal. Jurg will be behind the camera.

  13. Diana what an incredible project. Cats are so beautiful and so endangered everywhere. I love the sentiments of teaching our children so they make better decisions. Can those of us from the US contribute to this??

  14. What a facinating post, and you are fortunate to have taken part.

    I will have to do some google research on Cape Leopards, I had not really heard of them before.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  15. brilliant post Diana, one of the things I like about my grandsons school is how it teaches the children to care for and repsect all, like animal and plant and people from other cultures,

    when I travelled in wilder areas of the north American continent one of the problems rangers said they have is people who do not obey the rules and then get into difficulty with animals, then the animal often has to be put down, I know who I'd rather put down! Frances

  16. Donna - if you click on the Adopt A Spot link in the 2nd last paragraph. We would be delighted if you would contribute!

    Jen Muddy Boots - our Cape Leopards are smaller than their cousins up north.

    Island Threads - around Cape Town, it is the baboons that are shot, because tiresome people WILL feed them. There are even warning signs up with a target on the baboon.

  17. that's sad about the baboons, in a small town near where I was in Montana usa bears had been shot because people were still putting out bird feed, another problem was people not disposing of rubbish properly, deer had been found staved to death when investigated they had plastic bags stuck in their throat! they must have smelt the food on the bag and so thought it was food!! all so sad, I missed part one so off to find it, Frances

  18. People like these and the leopard project in the Baviaanskloof does a wonderful job, but I often think that you just need one or two farmers to derail all the good work by shooting a leopard.

  19. Firefly - But, the more people are aware - of the 'value' of leopards, to ecology, to tourism, to us - the better.

    Feeling warm and fuzzy - two spots have been adopted. One in Cape Town and one in New York State.

  20. Nothing could be farther away from or more exotic than life in dark cold windy Fife, Scotland! The internet takes us into other lives. Go the big cats!

  21. It's wonderful that the Trust is helping farmers come up with solutions, too, instead of just saying, "Deal with your losses." Diffusing the antagonism between farmer/wildlife and farmer/environmentalist must be a big part of the effort.

    Everyone knows that signs only refer to other hikers, not our exceptional selves... (ahem)

  22. The landscape is truly breathtaking! I would love to hike there, but promise to steer clear of the red flags.


  23. ooooooo ja, das stimmt!!

    Dein Kollege ist nicht zufällig ein Ostfriese? *schmunzel*

    lieben Gruß aus Leer
    - dem Tor Ostfrieslands-


  24. Diana, That was a wonderful read` and I think you are so right~We need to educate our children. gail ps I am also going to google Cape Leopards to see what they look like!

  25. What an exciting outing! And what a good excuse to go back! (And a very stylish Landy you've got; I'm jealous!)

  26. Jack - the Landrover is vintage, as we are. 1998!

  27. interesting post! something i knew nothing about... do you know about the leopard conservation efforts in kzn?


    our friends are working on a documentary to make fake fur as the leopard populations is decreasing due to the use of skins by the shembe religion...


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Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

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