14 December, 2012

The elusive Cape mountain leopard Spot

When I wrote on the 24th of November, the weatherman promised ‘very cold, wet and windy conditions are expected to set in over the north-western high ground’ in the Cederberg. Sutherland has had MINUS 2C in November! Jurg was hiking at Driehoek as October turned to November volunteering with the Cape Leopard Trust and helping to monitor the traps.

The Cape Leopard Trust

For us vegetarians the ickier side of trapping leopards is the bait. CLT’s Quinton Martins has a permit from Cape Nature to collect road kill to be used as bait. They found this duiker in the vegetation by the road, a victim of road kill. The dead animal (you and I will just imagine the smell and the buzzing flies) is carried OUTSIDE the vehicle. Interesting task for Sheryl, an intern from North Carolina!

Road kill duiker as CLT bait

CLT transporting a dead duiker

Since Jurg began volunteering, he and Dr. Martins have been working at recapturing Spot, as the battery in her collar needs replacing. Quinton says he has caught her three times and she is getting wise to his traps.

Always so tantalising and frustrating – Jurg did have one capture that week. Rush to the trap to see who or what we have. A Cape clawless otter. Very quick photo. Open the cage door. The indignant otter dashes down to the nearby river!   

Cape clawless otter in CLT trap

While Jurg was sitting in his tent he heard a rumble. Then an almighty crash. Came out of his tent to find that his guardian angel had carefully steered a falling branch – to just miss Jurg, his tent, and his car! Unusually fierce wind in Cape Town at the Linkin Park concert claimed a life. And made our garden sulk.

Trees at Driehoek

Camping at Driehoek

Just hours after Jurg left his August stint, Quinton was out with the next volunteer. As they set the last trap of the day, dassie alarm calls alerted Quinton to a leopard in the vicinity. He set up the predator caller. As they drove along, Karla Saller asked ‘What’s that shape on the rock?’ Just 80m from the road, was Spot! Listening intently to that predator caller. Patience … but Spot walked away down the road, avoiding the trap yet again - from the September issue of the email newsletter for Adopt-A-Spot sponsors.

Dr Quinton Martins setting a trap

In November as we were chatting on the phone – Quinton had to rush, the trap monitor’s gone off. And the camera trap shows it was the elusive Spot. She was caught in the foot loop trap, but succeeded in escaping uninjured.

Despite this last winter storm cold front, we move to the summer school holidays, when it will be too hot to leave a leopard in the trap even briefly. When holidaymakers will be out hiking and disturbing the animals away to the quieter roads less travelled. In February Jurg will return to Driehoek and again he will be in search of Spot the elusive Cape mountain leopardess.

Quinton and Sheryl setting up a camera trap for the CLT
On the right a protea bush

It WAS Spot the Cape mountain leopard!

(Copyright to the Cape Leopard Trust)

As we are between Thanksgiving and Christmas, perhaps Adopt-A-Spot and our Cape mountain leopards can tick one name off your gift list?

Take your mind to that primeval back to nature – is that shape on the rock over there a leopard?! I found this fascinating archaeological research on Europe’s Ice Age, by Nicholas Conard at Tuebingen University. The world’s oldest musical instruments from southwestern Germany.  Listen to a modern musician on a replica flute. Thru long cold evenings in the cave, our ancestors used a vulture’s wing bone to carve a flute and then to make music.

To those who celebrate with me I wish a Happy Christmas, and to you all peace and happiness with family and friends. I’ll be back on the 28th with Christmas flowers for Wildflower Wednesday.

In June 2013 '3 hours later' the camera trap provides fresh evidence of Cape mountain leopards.

Pictures by Jurg and CLT
text by Diana Studer
AKA 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. that is amazing, what an exciting life you live and in such a magnificent country!

  2. Wishing you and those you love,a very blessed Christmas.
    Jane x

  3. How exciting! What a gorgeous animal. I don't envy you having to deal with roadkill, though. I have a very sensitive stomach, and am afraid I would not be good at dealing with that. I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

  4. Dear Diana,
    exciting to read, as always.
    Have a nice christmas!

  5. Diana, I so love reading your posts about the exotic animals that Jerg is involved with. I hope you manage to capture her before the tracker fails. Christina

  6. Oh my, that was a big branch that fell. We call branches like that 'widow maker's here, and you can imagine why. So glad nobody was hurt!

    Even though Spot has become wise to the traps, I still love it when the remote cameras succeed in 'capturing' wild animals going about their normal business. We recently invested in a camera like that for the farm, so we can what's skulking around the pens and coops at night!

  7. Once again, amazing photos with a fantastic story. Will you still be able to be involved with your Cape Leopard Trust after you have moved, or will you be too far away? I wish you a very happy Christmas Diana and peace in the new year.

  8. Diana I just renewed my support to the leopards...I love these updates...Happy Christmas to you and yours as well!

  9. Happy Holidays to you Diana. I will see you on the 28th.

  10. Wow, fascinating info, Diana. The information on the ancient flutes is fascinating. The leopard project is wonderful. I can see why the baiting process would be unpleasant.

    1. By the way, Diana, I posted the Lessons Learned wrap-up today. And my plant of the month post for December is here: http://bit.ly/Wv3SWF. Thanks for hosting and joining in! Happy Christmas to you and yours!

  11. A very exciting post Diana, your husband just barely missed out getting knocked around by that branch...he is fortunate.

    But the shot of the leopard, takes my breath away. To see such a magnificent animal in the wild...amazing.


  12. Glad that Jurg & Spot are OK.
    Happy Christmas Diana.

  13. Talk about a close call. Good thing hubby's guardian angel was on duty. Getting that pic of the leopard is really special.

    Wishing you and your family a merry and blessed Christmas and a glorious new year. I'm off on holiday on the 21st and back home on 5 Jan but did some forward posts on both my blogs to keep them active though.

  14. Angels do come in handy at times! I so glad Jurg was safe!! And I hope many will adopt a spot . . . what a beautiful wild creature! Happiest of Holidays Diana!

  15. I'll be off the internet, with my mother and sisters, for a week. When I return I'll read, and publish your comments.

  16. Hi Diana,
    Have a wonderful holiday and Happy Christmas!
    See you when you get back.
    xoxo Ingrid

  17. Merry Christmas to you and your family Diana. Glad to hear that branch missed the tent - even a branch can do quite a bit of damage and that was a big one. Surprised to hear it got so cold - minus 2 means a good hard frost here.

  18. May I just say I am HAPPY to look at tough-to-interpret photos of animals because y'all are trying to process the animal and free it ASAP. That is always my #1 goal, do what you need to do as efficiently as possible, then just let that puppy go. There's a study that showed when elk just SAW people that were (I think) hundreds of yards away, their heart rate doubled. People stress most animals out. Therefore I have few shots of wildlife I've handled, but it's not about me. =)

    And that's another reason I LOVE the progress that's been made in photographing wildlife via cameras that just sit there. SO great. And "traps" that bears rub against and shed fur, which researchers use to identify what was there, and get DNA from it. SO cool.

    Stunning shot of that TALLLLL tree. =) Lovely post!

  19. Wow! How exciting, Diana. I hope you had a wonderful family visit, and that you enjoyed your time unplugged.

  20. Scintillating read about Spot. That really was a close shave for Jurg - not his time yet said the angel. Wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas

  21. Spot is beautiful! I do believe in guardian angels, and I am so glad Jung was protected. I wish you a wonderful Christmas and the very best in 2013!

  22. I am enjoying the reports on Spot and the Cape Leopard Trust! Eish for that fallen branch. It looks like a blue gum? I always speed up when beneath big gum trees on a windy day...

    1. not sure what the tree is, so I carefully avoided naming it. Not blue gum. Maybe poplar, or London plane?

    2. Not London Plane but almost certainly poplar...

  23. Cavemen made music? WOW! Happy holidays to you! I'm so glad there is a trust to support these leopards. I definitely believe in angels and am so glad Jung was ok. :o)


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My Canon PowerShot A490

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