The use of camera traps has proven to be a useful way to get an idea of leopard activities in the N’wanetsi Concession. I've been able to capture good quality photographs were taken during the survey. There were 20 leopard photographs taken during the study and about 13 individuals. However, because we only have one camera per station it is difficult to say this with confidence.
Cameras were placed in areas of known leopard activities and areas which were perceived as suitable leopard habitats. Care was taken to cover as much area as possible while not compromising the capture probabilities for leopards, i.e. to give each leopard an opportunity of at least one capture.
Due to the sheer size of the N’wanetsi Concession (15,000 hectares), and limited number of camera traps, a considerable amount of land is yet to be sampled in the north of the concession. The results obtained in this study are therefore a partial sample of the leopard population in the area.
After this study, I will now be faced with the humongous task of sampling a 2 million hectare Kruger National Park. To put this in to perspective it is about the size of Wales or about half the Netherlands. As a result more camera traps are required if this mammoth task is to become a reality. Ideally 50 cameras may be sufficient enough to cover the whole Park in a period of 1 year.
1. Two cameras were broken by elephants. This requires that the steel casings be sprayed with pepper spray and the inside be fitted with some sort of padding to provide shock absorption during elephant encounters. Remedy: pepper spray
Elephants 2: Cameras 0
2. Rhinos did not have an impact on cameras as much as elephants did except that they use them as rubbing posts, which they subsequently manage to bend. Well hidden cameras were not affected by rhinos at all. Remedy: conceal the cameras
Rhinos 0.5: Cameras 1
3. Hyenas were not a factor probably because of the use of steel casings.
Hyena 0: Cameras 1
4. The weather did not affect cameras in a negative way except that during low temperatures battery life was shortened tremendously. As a result if one is surveying during the winter months. The use of rechargeable batteries will in the long run prove to be environmentally and economically friendly. Remedy: wear warm clothes!
Cold temperature 1: Batteries 0: Nakedi 0
5. Rain was also not a factor.
Rain 0: Cameras 1
Joining AWF in 2007, Nakedi is the latest addition to AWF's team of species researchers in Africa. Working in the Limpopo region, where he's from, Nakedi's studying the great cats to shape conservation strategies that will benefit communities he's known all his life. Looking at Nakedi's focus areas as a zoologist – Cytogenetics, Molecular Biology, and Geometric Morphometrics – it's easy to see he is serious about conservation. Leopards as a species especially interested him because they are both powerful and elusive – making it a challenge to study and protect them.
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