Working with the African predators is always one of the most exciting operations to be involved with. From lions and leopards to cheetah and hyena, they all fall within our range of responsibility. We as the MTPA do have a hand full of protected areas with lion populations on them which need to be managed but pretty much every reserve has had and always will have the occasional leopard cruising through. Most of the work involves the capture and relocation of problem predators, animals that have broken out of protected areas and find themselves in farm or community land areas. Our common Provincial boundary with the Kruger National park dictates that we will have to manage the occasional AWOL predator from SANPARKS as well.
The safest and most effective way to catch leopard specifically is to set a cage. These are super smart and elusive predators which are designed not to be seen. This makes them incredibly difficult to capture without the use of a cage. Over the years we have formulated by far the best and humane design and material structure for the capture of predators. You will see in picture 1 and 2 we now use a “clear view” type of fencing for the main structure of the cage. This has proven to be the most effective in terms of minimizing injury to the trapped animal. Bait is always used in the form of meat which is place in a “Bait Box” at the far end of the cage. The predator therefore enters the cage and stand onto a pressure plate which triggers the door behind him to close. We have had great success with this method.
Using chemical darting is extremely effective when working on lions. This is also a method used on leopard but not as frequently as the cage method described above. Bait is dragged on the road in the area where the lions were last seen. This is then fastened to a solid structure like a tree. The lions are attracted by the smell of the bait and follow the scent trail created by the drag and start to feed at the bait site. Because the bait cannot be removed and dragged off by the lions they remain in the bait area where they are darted from a vehicle.
We are currently busy with two major predator research operations. The one is a bi- annual lion census which takes place on Manyalet Game Reserve. This is an imperitive part of disease control in predators within the greater Manyaleti/ Kruger area.
The second one is a leopard project at Loskop Dam Nature Reserve. A PhD researcher is trapping and collaring leopards in the greater Loskop area within and outside the protected area and collecting data on many aspects of leopard movements, individuals, and behavior. Various supportive data capture techniques such as trail cameras are also strategically placed across the study area for information collection.
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