domingo, 21 de novembro de 2010

NZHO Leopard Project Newsletter November 2010

  We have gained a number of new additions to our mailing list since the past newsletter went out and I thought I’d begin this newsletter with a general introduction to the project for those of you who are new followers…who we are, what we do and how things are going with the current survey. A few years back the Honorary Officers of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Northern Zululand region decided they wanted to initiate a conservation-based research project addressing an information gap that they perceived in the area. What they set out to do was to survey different conservation areas, using remote digital cameras, to provide estimates of leopard population density. As a species, in our area, leopards are threatened on a number of different fronts…along with suffering the effects of increasing habitat fragmentation leopards are also poached for skins, killed because of real or perceived threats to livestock and game, and hunted as trophies. Because the species is widespread it is often assumed that populations are strong and healthy but the status of most localized populations is largely unknown. Using capture-recapture methods and photographs taken by trail cameras we are able to provide an estimate of leopard population density in a given survey area. Essentially, using the unique spot patterns we are able to identify individual leopards and we use statistics that estimate numbers based upon the number of individuals identified, how many times they are photographed, and how often new animals are identified.
With generous support from Global Nature Fund, Wildlands Conservation Trust, and the fundraising efforts of the Northern Zululand Honorary Officers themselves, we are currently surveying Somkhanda Game Reserve. Somkhanda is located in Northern Zululand, west of the Pongola Dam. Somkhanda is a community-owned reserve that is being jointly managed by Zululand Hunters and Wildlands Conservation Trust. The area we are actively surveying is approximately 10,000 hectares (the exact survey area can only be calculated after the collection of all survey data). When our project sets out to survey an area we first spend a bit of time getting to know the terrain and this helps us to choose our camera trap locations. After the traps are set up we begin a trial phase…a period of time where we check that all the equipment is working, that all the cameras have been set up at the correct angle, and that all sites are located to maximize the rate of photographing of leopards. We then begin the “active survey”, which is the period of time where the photographs captured compose the data used for statistical analysis. Currently, in Somkhanda, we are towards the end of the active survey, with about two weeks of data collection left to go.
Thus far in the Somkhanda survey we have identified 13 leopards (this doesn’t include small cubs). There appears to be two territorial adult males that cover the reserve, one in the north western section on the reserve, and one called “Six Inch” that wears a GPS collar and comes onto the property from neighbouring Hlambinyathi Game Reserve in the southeast. We are picking up many photos of females and of young leopards as well, which gives a preliminary indication of a healthy resident population based at Somkhanda.
In addition to leopards we continue to pick up photos of all the common game species, plus aardvark, honey badger, white-tailed mongoose, water mongoose, black and white rhinos, large spotted genet, caracal, serval and have even photographed spotted and brown hyaena.

We will be wrapping up the survey in Somkhanda within the next month and the final results will be coming out after the holiday season. Shortly after that our cameras will be going to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, where Wildlife Act is executing cheetah and leopard surveys. Wildlife Act is a volunteer-based wildlife monitoring organization that is providing HIP with monitoring services. Wildlife Act will be running the cameras and the NZHO Leopard Project will be collaborating with assistance in survey design and data analysis.

As always, we welcome donations of any amount, which will enable us to continue our work into the next year. For donations please contact Debbie at Thank you to everyone for your support and interest and once again please feel free to pass on our newsletter to anyone you will think would like to hear about what we do and send any questions to me at

Thank you,

Shannon & the Leopard Project team

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