Written bu: Jeannie Hayward & Anita Meyer of The Cape Leopard Trust Boland Project
South Africa’s Boland mountain chain (referred to here as the mountains stretching from Bainskloof in the north down to the Kogelberg coast in the south) is a key geographical landmark in the Western Cape.
Hundreds of thousands of people see it from a distance every day, and tens of thousands more live and farm on its slopes, drive through it and use it as a recreational area. And yet one of the most important original inhabitants of these mountains remains unknown to the majority of these people – the leopard.
A large proportion of suitable leopard habitat in the Boland is located on private reserves and farms adjacent to the core mountain reserves. The involvement and support of private landowners – especially with regards to granting access to their land to place cameras – is pivotal to the success of the Cape Leopard Trust Boland Project.
The Boland Project coordinators, Jeannie Hayward & Anita Meyer, continually promote public participation in their research. One way of doing so is encouraging private landowners to purchase their own camera traps and submit their data to the project.
Another way is to get private persons or groups to sponsor a camera (i.e. buy one for the trust), and then be involved in the deployment and servicing of this camera should they so wish.
The Boland Project has finite resources and the involvement and support of landowners and sponsors is invaluable. Through the participation of landowners in this manner, the Boland Project has been able to confirm the presence of leopard on isolated mountains like Simonsberg and Paardeberg, and to continually monitor known leopards as well as record new individuals in areas where the Cape Leopard Trust cameras are not currently active.
Another benefit of camera trapping on private land and by private landowners is the spontaneous sense of stewardship that arises from obtaining photos of secretive and nocturnal wildlife, since this makes biodiversity a tangible and marketable reality.
The Boland team has assisted with many public enquiries on the best camera models to purchase and how to successfully deploy a camera trap.
It is also heartening to note that individuals who learn of and buy camera traps without any initial contact with the Cape Leopard Trust Boland Project are also increasingly sharing their leopard photo data with the project when they learn of the importance and relevance of these data, thereby broadening the reach of the project and supporting predator research and conservation.
Included herein is just some of the Boland mountain creatures that these cameras have managed to photograph.
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