Only one visit by a leopard, but we are now regularly getting good quality photos of both sides simultaneously. We are sending them to the Cape Leopard Trust for their records and for assistance with identification, but we haven't had a detailed response yet.
We've been over the photos for this year to see if there is a pattern to the visits and so far we can say the following:
1. We have recorded 19 separate visits between 1 January and 31 July this year.
2. Random frequency; sometimes two separate visits in a day, sometimes every couple of days, other times we have had a gap of six weeks between recorded visits.
3. Mostly nocturnal, but four of the visits were in daylight.
4. There seem to be two different individuals who appear to alternate their visits roughly speaking. Our unskilled efforts at identification are not always reliable and sometimes the picture quality is not good enough for a reliable identification.
5. Most visits are very short duration, simply walking through. There have been occasions where the leopard has stopped for a rub on a dead tree branch.
April has been a very exciting time for the Leopard and Otter Project team. The cameras in the cave were checked on Wednesday 27th April and a veritable bonanza of still photos and videos were collected of leopard activity during the month. The cave was visited on four separate occasions by leopards but it was only after detailed examination of the spot patterns on the faces of the still photographs that it was positively established that two different leopards had been in the cave – not together but on different days; one occasion only two days separated the visits. One leopard is the normal visitation by Scott that we have been recording for the past 4 years and the other we believe is the as yet unidentified leopard that we first recorded on 10 October 2013. At that time the “leopard girls” (Jeannie Hayward and Anita Meyer) were still working for the Cape Leopard Trust and they were unable to identify this particular leopard as it had not been photographed before. Further visits from this particular leopard still did not reveal enough information to positively identify it. It is interesting to note that we have not photographed this leopard over the past 18 months i.e. it has not been in the cave during that period. Duncan has called the second leopard “Pacman” due to the shape of a couple of spots near the tail looking like the classic gobbler of early computer game fame!
On the visit by a leopard on 2 April we have photos of its entry in to the cave and then about 50 minutes later we have a photo showing the leopard running at speed out of the cave. Ten minutes later a group of people entered the cave complete with Alsatian dog (luckily on a leash). We can only surmise that the noise of this fairly large group of hikers approaching the cave disturbed the leopard; luckily for the hikers and the dog that the leopard moved off so quickly! We would ask that no one enters this cave please as it quite clearly affects the visitations by leopards and disrupts our research.
Wayne Kruger of ASK reported at on Thursday 21 April at about 2130 whilst on a vehicle patrol with a new ASK recruit they saw a leopard opposite erf 253 in Cruenta Circle. Wayne tried to photograph it but unfortunately was unable to do so. On Monday 25 April at 1900 Hannah Reinders saw a leopard crossing the road on the R44 in the vicinity of the manganese mine. So again proof of plenty of leopard activity in the Rooiels area!
The two new Otter cameras have been set up- one in the Nature Reserve near the otter pool and one covering the concrete path near Holmar’s bench near the main beach. The Nature reserve camera has had success already and our first sighting of an otter has been recorded- see photo below. We would again like to express our thanks to all the generous Rooielsers who so willingly contributed to the purchase of these new cameras.
The first visit of 2016 yielded a bumper crop of leopards as well as several visits by the Rooiels baboon troop. In fact we had a curious audience while we were going about our business!
A selection of some of the stills - look for the Leopard's Leap in the last two night photos.