The next day (October 31), John Varty (JV), Andy Coetzee, Francois Botha, Hendri and I went out to bait the cages.
JV is famous for his work with big cats and his tiger project down in the Karoo. Andy has more than twenty years of experience working with wildlife and has also been in the army. Francois and Hendri are cameramen who will be filming the events for National Geographic Live, which will be airing live in 166 countries worldwide from Sunday November 9th until Saturday November 15th.
If you have time, please watch the program “Caught on Safari: Live”, you’ll hopefully get a glimpse of the leopard project in the Singita Concession of the Kruger National Park. The leopard project will be aired on day two, that’ll be on Monday November 10th.
The four of us went out and baited all the traps, save one (a lioness with cubs rested in front of the cage that day) and finished just before the game drives began.
To bait the trap we use meat, mostly from animals that die from starvation due to dry conditions. We take the animals' insides and drag them around the trap site to attract leopards, but this method often attract other carnivores. We then place Dormicum® in the meat (to calm the animal down when he/she finds out that he/she is trapped) and tie it to the trigger. When a leopard comes, it should theoretically tug on the meat, thereby closing the door behind.
The last trap looked worrying, it was set too low. Someone commented (in Shangani) while shaking his head as the trap was set up: “Ti ta ngena tingala la!” (“Lions will get in here!”) I mentioned this to JV while he and I were dragging the lure on a dry river bed. JV’s response: “I wouldn’t worry about it, Nakedi. Lions are too big. I’m worried that even a male leopard may not fit in there.”
I said: “OK," not knowing what was in store for us next....
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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