Neuras Wine & Wildlife Estate, regarded as ‘the world’s driest vineyard’ is located in Namibia’s Namib Desert. Neuras is a true oasis thanks to its five natural fountains which create a unique micro-climate that sustains enormous palm trees and is home to 214 bird species and the rare blue Julia dragon fly. It is also home to a very special leopard named Lightning,
Lightning arrived at N/a’an ku se’s Wildlife Sanctuary as a young orphaned cub in March 2008. The bittersweet time to release Lightning came almost too quickly in 2009. Although released on Namibia’s Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Lightning migrates onto the predator friendly Neuras Wine estate. The wine estate also forms the base of one of the carnivore monitoring teams called the Neuras team.
Lightning has successfully raised two litters of cubs and all of her recorded kills have been game species, therefore avoiding any conflict with neighbouring livestock farmers. After the batteries in her collar died in 2013 the Neuras team successfully re-trapped Lightning and fitted her with a new GPS collar which now makes her Africa’s longest studied leopard.
Having tracked this gorgeous cat for five years, Lightning has revitalised the reputation of Namibia’s leopards. Her tastes tend solely towards wild game, proving that leopards more often than not are non-conflict animals. Occasionally she waves “hello” with her cubs, appearing in Namibia’s breathtaking sunsets, attracting tourists with her ethereal beauty.
The N/a’an ku se Foundation took ownership of the Neuras Estate in 2012 to continue the unique wine production and use the profits to help conserve its unique micro-climate, to carry out research on the area’s large carnivore population and mitigate human-carnivore conflict.
Along with Lightning, other resident leopard and cheetah populations have been monitored by use of camera traps and fitting individuals with GPS radio collars. However, the Neura’s team plans to broaden their efforts to include an intensive study on the spotted hyena population.
Spotted hyena’s are notoriously difficult to study due to being extremely difficult to trap and possessing an unhelpful habit of biting GPS collars of each other thanks to their extremely powerful bite. There is little information about their movements and behaviour in Southern Namibia, therefore N/a’an ku se has no concrete answers and suggestions to give to farmers who are experiencing heavy livestock losses due to hyena predation; resulting in many individuals being shot.
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