Identification guide versions now dated 6th November 2015
Photos above by Matthew Schurch and Jetje Japhet
New Identification Guides are out!
2015 has been a long year for the project with lots of changes having been made to both the leopard and cheetah guides. We've had a surprising number of leopards promoted from the historical section to the current section and there have been quite a few leopard and cheetah cubs born. Do take a look at these new versions and keep reporting your sightings.
Launch of the Cheetah Identification Guide
Just after I launched the leopard ID guide in 2011 I was fortunate enough to meet Gus and Margie Mills in the park. We discussed the possibility of creating a cheetah guide to match the leopard guide. Since they had 5 years worth of data this was an exciting possibility and a way of helping them to continue their monitoring after they left the park, it also became a key goal of the project that we registered with SANParks. Over the past year this guide has become a reality through the hard work of many people. Like the leopard guide it has been split into two sections to make it easier to download and use. Please check out the identification guides page to download a copy.
If you have a cheetah sighting that you would like to report then for the time being please either use the downloadable sighting spread sheet or email me the details. All sighitngs will be confirmed and then passed on to Gus and Margie to add to their extensive database.
SANParks Case Report on Langklaas
SANParks have allowed me to release to you a copy of the case report into the death of Langklaas at the Nossob waterhole earlier this year. This report is based on photographs and a pathology report by the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa. It has been compiled by Dr David Zimmermann, he is a member of SANParks Veterinary and Wildlife Services and part of the diseases team. I have taken the liberty to black out the images as they may be disturbing to some people. If you wish to see the full report then please contact me directly. Alternatively here is a small article featured on the Wild blog on her life, that both surprised, and amazed us all.
Wild Shots - 15th November 2014
It is with great pleasure that I can say that I will be speaking about the leopard project at this years Wild Shots photography symposium held in Cape Town. This annual event brings together conservationists who use photography for their work with some of the best and most exciting wild photographers. It promises to be an exciting day filled with inspiring stories, current perspectives on the threats that our parks are facing and best of all lots of photographs of the wild places that we love.
In order to raise awareness of the project and some funds to help with the running costs we have produced a range of 3 bumper stickers. If you would like one of these for your car, trailer or anywhere then please drop us an email.
Welcome to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Leopard Project. On this site you can find out all about the project I am undertaking to study the ecology of the Kgalagadi leopards.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) leopard project has been operational since 2011 and is primarily composed of two principle aspects. The first is the production of an identification guide for the KTP leopards. The purpose of the guide is to enhance the visitor's experience of the park by providing them with the means to identify a leopard they see. Ideally the identification would take place during the sighting or possibly back at the camp. This can have the added bonus of pointing out useful information on the leopards they have seen, and under the right circumstances alerting the visitor to a cub they have not seen hiding in the surrounds. However, identifications after the trip can be extremely informative, particularly when you may realise that you have seen the same leopard many times.
The second aspect is the science that this project will undertake. Much like a static camera trap survey, every visitor and their camera can be utilised as a mobile camera trap. Using these 'trap events' or sightings, we can analyse the identifications, locations and times of the data to get a better understanding of the ecology of the Kgalagadi leopard. Since the conception of the project it has now been expanded to include a study of all the large carnivores and has been approved by SANParks Scientific Services. The Large Carnivore study is being coordinated in the KTP by SANParks Biotechnician Graeme Ellis.
Listed here are a few of the science questions that we are trying to answer with this study.
What is the total leopard population in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park?
How are the leopards distributed and what are their range sizes?
What is the sex ratio?
What is the average lifespan for a KTP leopard?
How do young subadult leopards disperse? How long does it take and how far?
When do subadults enter the breeding population?
How can you help?
Firstly, I would like to thank you for visiting this site and for taking an interest in the project. Even though leopards are elusive and are often hard to see, we can actively track and monitor the Kgalagadi leopards as a result of the large number of visitors to the park. This is enabled through park visitors reporting any leopard sightings they have directly to me. This can be achieved by visiting the sighting report page. After I have received your sighting I shall add it to the database and either confirm your identification, or provide one if possible. There is always the possibility that the leopard you have seen is a new individual, in these cases a new page in the guide will be required and I shall contact you with regard to this.
But there are other ways you can help even if you are not about to visit the park. If you have visited the park in the past then you may have a historical leopard sighting. It may not be obvious but this sighting could be just as important as a recent sighting, if not more so. Historical sightings can often provide us with vital information about currently known leopards. This could be in the form of a first known sighting or an extension to a range, allowing older movements to be better understood. You may even be able to provide a genetic link between two leopards as was the case for Langklaas. Since this project began I have searched the SANParks forum for as many historical sightings as possible. As a result I now have records going back to 2006. If you have a historical sighting, no matter how long ago, and have a photograph to accompany it, then do please report it to me. You might well have the next missing key to the puzzle.
In July 2011 this project began with 27 individual leopards known. Today we now know of 85 individuals, of which 37 are regularly seen by visitors to the KTP on the South African side and 7 are seen in the Mabuasehube section in Botswana. We have also managed to track the dispersal of two young female leopards from their respective births in late 2005 and March 2010 to their current territory locations, sadly one of these female passed away in May 2014 so her story has come to a premature end. However, we have recently seen a young male called Tebogo start to disperse away from his mothers territory. He seems to be staying in the river bed allowing us to continue to track his journey. This project is still in its early days, and there is a lot to still do, but with your help we can really make a difference in understanding the life of the Kgalagadi leopard.