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What Has the Collared Leopard Been Up To?

  • 11/28/08
  • Nakedi

Since being collared the leopard has been providing us with very valuable information. Firstly his movement patterns suggest that he prefers drainage lines to open plains. This makes him one tough cat to find even with a collar. He is so good at hiding from this fellow who keeps following him no matter where he is; except of course when he is in Mozambique (I wonder if he’s picking up the trend).

For instance, three days ago Deirdre Opie (guide) and I went to track him along the ridge. Upon finding him he ran away in a spectacular manner. He kept the same perfect posture as he ran. It was like watching him float over the rugged terrain. I don’t know how to explain this, but for those five odd seconds, time stood still and nothing really mattered.

Personal observation: the telepathy thing, I am starting to have serious doubts!
Score board: Leopard 1, Nakedi 0 - since I’m the one doing the chasing.

Secondly, he likes secluded areas surrounded by numerous tall trees with dense foliage - for example the marula tree, Sclerocarya birrea, which bears marula fruit. The juice from fruit is famous for its intoxicating effects when fermented. For those who enjoy Amarula Cream, remember the collared leopard (and the researcher if you like) when you get an opportunity to drink a glass or two. In areas where pressure from lions and hyenas is high, leopards use such trees to protect their well earned meals from being taken away.

Thirdly, he has random movements within the study area; the movements appear as such probably because we only have two weeks worth of data. In a month or two we should start getting information that would hopefully be biologically relevant.

[caption id="attachment_280" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Map of leopard movements."]Map of leopard movements.[/caption]

Lastly, he likes to spend time in Mozambique. As I am writing this, he is approximately three kilometres across the border. We don’t have permission to work in Mozambique at the moment, so we must wait until he returns in to the Kruger National Park.

So far he has given us some information on two of his crossing points along the fence. Next to one of them is a beautiful marula tree that has signs of continued use. Seven days ago while I went tracking with Clement Khoza (tracker) we managed to go to the exact spot where he crossed the fence. That is where the marula tree is.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the AWF supporters for making this work possible. If you'd like to help, please use the donate button to the right or click here.

[caption id="attachment_281" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Clement examining the marula tree."]Clement examining the marula tree.[/caption]


Nakedi
About the Author

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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