What do an arms maker and a rare leopard have in common?
Trust partners with Denel to capture rare shots of the elusive Cape mountain leopard
It is “pure chance and luck” to see the incredibly elusive Cape mountain leopard – and then it will be a very brief experience, according to the Cape Leopard Trust (CLT).
“The leopard will appear as if from nowhere, stand still for a few seconds, and then disappear into the fynbos once more,” the CLT explains on its website.
This is why there are no known professional photographs of the rare Cape mountain leopard available – but the CLT has found an unlikely ally in a bid to capture more of these cats on camera.
It has partnered with arms manufacturer Rheinmetall Denel Munition, whose site outside Wellington in the Western Cape is within the Cape mountain leopard’s habitat.
Now pictures have been released of a Cape mountain leopard captured on their site after cameras donated to the CLT were installed.
Rheinmetall spokesperson Ruby Maree said the arms company decided to partner with CLT to promote the conservation of the local leopard population.
The RDM facility is a 3,500-hectare site 23km north of Wellington, and is adjacent to the mountains, surrounded by mainly wheat-farming activities.
CLT chief executive Helen Turnbull said the Cape mountain leopards (Panthera pardus pardus) are much smaller – by about half the body mass – than those found elsewhere in Africa.
“On average, males weigh in at around 35kg, and females weigh around 20kg. Despite Cape mountain leopards being smaller than other leopards, their home ranges are actually much larger,” she said.
CLT spokesperson and researcher Jeannie Hayward said the trust strives to ensure the long-term survival of leopards.
Hayward said the trust currently has two long-term focus project areas – in the Cederberg Wilderness Area and the Boland Mountain Complex (BMC), a designated World Heritage Site.
“Within both project areas we have conducted research on and monitoring of leopard distribution and density, and we assist with mitigation efforts in human/leopard conflict situations,” she said.
Hayward said they have identified threats for the long-term survival of the local leopard – most notably illegal hunting with wire snares.
She said leopards in Africa are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
“Because of their low densities, large home ranges and limited suitable habitat, leopards in the Cape are more threatened than many other leopard populations,” she further explained.