Trip to Bushmans Kloof – Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat

Good evening dear blog readers,

On June 27-29, Anita from the Boland Leopard Project and myself were in Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat to speak about leopards, caracals and conservation with the guests. The trip was successful and Anita’s talk on The Cape Leopard Trust’s research attracted many people.

We successfully tracked Easter, the female caracal we collared in April, with the guests who were very enthusiastic despite the cold and wet weather.

On one of the drives, Sijbrandt, our ranger, found drag marks along the road. We followed the marks on each side of which we could see deep leopard’s spoor impressions. The carcass must have been heavy according to the depth of the tracks and the use of the claws, deep in the sand. We found a dead bontebok, an antelope of around 60 kg, hidden in a rock crevice, under a big bush. With the rangers and Anita, we then backtracked nearly 400 meters to try to reconstitute the “crime scene”. It was an interesting exercise, showing how much tracking can teach you about wildlife.

A leopard track in the sand

Anita and the rangers are backtracking the drag mark

Bushmans Kloof also offered us some nice and unexpected wildlife viewing opportunities, like this cute elephant shrew on the morning sun. Birds were present, singing and feeding in spite of the rain.

An elephant shrew, heating at the morning sun after a cold night

Malachite kingfisher

The malachite sunbird is a big and very colorful sunbird that we can see in the Cederberg

Two bokmakieries singing

I told you that caracals are emblematic animals! As a piece of evidence, look at this bushman rock art: it shows a cat! For me, it’s definitely a caracal, look at its ears ;-)

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Thank you

A very big thank you to the Wilderness Wildlife Trust for their generous support for the Cederberg Caracal Project!

 

The Wilderness Wildlife Trust (www.wildernesstrust.com) supports a wide variety of projects in southern Africa, within the categories of wildlife management, research and education. These projects address the needs of existing wildlife populations, seek solutions to save endangered species and provide education and training for local people and their communities.

The goal of the Trust is to make a difference to Africa, her wildlife and her people.

Sure you will make a difference to the Cederberg Caracal Project. Thank you!

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Caracals are coming back!

Hello folks,

My post today is to tell you I am going to start trapping caracals again, now that Quinton is back from the US.

This morning, I spotted my first caracal in the wild in the Cederberg Mountains. The cat was walking in a vlei, its big black ears pricked up, vigilant to the surrounding noises. It was so beautiful! I wish I could have taken a picture before it disappeared in the reed bed.

Other good news: I got a picture of one of our collared male caracal on one of The Cape Leopard Trust remote cameras. He seems very fine as you can see.  I also would like to share with you some pictures of other wildlife living on the same area as caracals. They are all nocturnal and difficult to see, that’s why the use of remote cameras is so important. As you can see, our collared male has a neighbor, maybe a female? If we could collar this other caracal, we could then look at their potential interaction and territory overlapping… A great person reminded me recently that “if we can dream it we can do it”!

One of our collared male caracal (Caracal caracal), active 30 minutes after midnight

Another caracal (Caracal caracal) – maybe a female? – that I would love to fit with a GPS radio collar, to learn about intraspecific interactions

A young African wildcat (Felis sylvestris lybica)

The aardwolf (Proteles cristata)

A member of the Canidae family, the Cape fox (Vulpes chama)

A bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis)

Last thing, on June, 27th, 28th and 29th, I will be with Anita from the Boland Leopard Project in Bushmans Kloof again. We will speak about leopards and conservation, and track Easter and her youngster.  Come and join us!

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The Cederberg Caracal Project thanks Eleonore Hellard and Anne Nguyen

A big thank you goes to Eleonore and Anne, two of my French friends, who came to visit me last week in the Cederberg. Although the rain was extremely strong, the rivers overflowing and the temperatures very low for Africa, Eleonore and Anne helped me to set up some cages and to check cameras that I put in the field. We also had long discussions about the statistical software R, modelling home ranges and the different techniques to catch cats! Eleonore has just obtain her PhD from the University of Lyon in France where she studied how viruses circulate in wild cats, and Anne is in her second year of PhD and studies the South American Chagas disease, in Lyon University as well. It was great to have you here girls and thanks for your help!

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Some news from Easter and Rooibos

Hello guys,

I have some good news for you. Recently, I have been in touch with the rangers at Buhmans Kloof, and Regardt, the head ranger, sent me some cool pictures of Easter and Rooibos on a springbok kill. Apparently, Easter killed the antilope on May, 26th. The rangers found the kill and put a remote camera close to it. The caracals came back at night on the 27th and 28th. They both seem to be in good health.

I let you discover the pictures, enjoy!

 

Easter with the springbok she killed on May, 26th

Easter and her cub Rooibos close to the kill

Rooibos (who is growing up fast) and her mother at night close to the springbok kill

Rooibos, with a full belly, is resting close to the carcass his mother killed two days ago

Easter with her GPS radio collar. We can see a small wound on her left leg, probably due to the springbok when she killed it (springboks are three times heavier than caracals!)

On June 26th, 27th and 28th, Anita from the Boland Project and myself will be talking about leopards and tracking caracals at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat. To read more about the previous experience and to book the next exciting trip, click here.

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A glimpse of the Cederberg biodiversity

Of course it is not the Kruger NP, nor the Serengeti, but the Cederberg Mountains have some beautiful (and sometimes uncommon) wildlife to offer to those who know where to look. Patience will be your best asset. Here are some pictures I took of some of the Cederberg wildlife. Enjoy and have a beautiful week-end!

African wildcat – Felis sylvestris

dassie/rock hyrax – Procavia capensis

baboon – Papio ursinus

eland – Taurotragus oryx

oryx/gemsbok – Oryx gazella

armadillo girdled lizard – Cordylus cataphractus

spotted eagle-owl – Bubo africanus

southern double-collared sunbird – Cinnyris chalybeus

malachite sunbird – Nectarinia famosa

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A beautiful tribute to everyone working and volunteering at the Cape Leopard Trust

Passion of people and their work can make conservation a real success. Dr. Quinton Martins explains it in a beautiful article on the Cape Leopard Trust website:

http://capeleopard.org.za/news-and-media/news/item/406-a-measure-of-success-almost-a-decade-later

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Leopard capture in Leeuvlak

Hello guys!

Good news at the Cape Leopard Trust: we captured a female leopard three nights ago, a leopard Quinton knows well.

Quinton was monitoring the cage using our VHF trap transmitters when he heard the trap was triggered. He rushed down on foot and found it was F5 “Lizzy”. She is at least 11 years old, the oldest female monitored on the project. We captured her in one of the walk-through trap set up in Leeuvlak, a canyon where there are tons of leopards scats and tracks!

Putting the GPS collar to Lizzy – Picture: Rika du Plessis

Great news is that Lizzy has a cub of about a year old. The Cape Leopard Trust remote cameras photographed him last October when he was probably 4-5 months old. Cute isn’t it? (I like his big belly – I’m sure it’s a male!).

Lizzy’s cub photographed by one of the Cape Leopard Trust remote cameras last October – Picture: The Cape Leopard Trust

The capture went well and I (like the rest of the team) was happy to see Lizzy lying calmly in the cage, waiting when we arrived. She had been captured in the same cage in 2008 – I wonder if she remembers… She didn’t have any injury on her teeth or claws and no bruise on her face. She was a bit dehydrated (she is an old lactating female) but Dr. Mark Walton, our vet, transfused her during the collaring process to be sure she’d be perfectly ok when waking up. She was full of ticks so Mark also administered an anti-parasite shot and we collected some of the ticks. We were pleased to see her recover well from the drugs and left her in peace as soon as she was up.

Checking the teeth have not been damaged in the cage. They are pretty used, confirming Lizzy is an old female – Picture: Marine Drouilly

On the (long) way back up, I was fortunate ;-) to hear Mark and his friend singing the French National Anthem and some other French songs. I went back to the Driehoek farm at 3:30 am and was awake at 7:00 am to close some of our traps for the day. I have to say that I was a bit tired but very happy. I think I’ve written enough and I let you enjoy some pictures of the beauty.

Lizzy with the GPS collar – Picture: Marine Drouilly

Part of the capture team with the collared female, just before she woke up and left the area – Picture: Rika du Plessis

Enjoy your week-end! Here it’s autumn and we have beautiful tree colors in Driehoek.

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Beautiful Cederberg

Hi guys,

The Cederberg Mountains are extremely scenic and I thought I would share with you some of the landscape pictures I took while doing fieldwork here. The colors and the forms of the rocks are ever-changing with the light, taking the shape of animals or people. Stadsaal caves and rock art, the Maltese Cross, Lot se Vrou and the cedar trees… There are plenty of things to discover! When are you coming to visit?

Have a great week-end!

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Where there is a will, there is a way

Good evening guys,

Today, I’m writing you with a huge grin on my face :-) (even bigger than that), probably the same as Meg’s some days ago…

Are you guessing what I’m trying to tell you?? Yes, it is with great emotion and delight that I want to announce you that we caught a caracal, well no, two caracals (let’s kill two birds with one stone!). I have to tell you that story…

On the night of March, 30th, Quinton went to Bushmans Kloof, a beautiful lodge in the northern Cederberg Mountains (www.bushmanskloof.co.za), to set up one of our newly developed safe rope netting traps to capture caracals for research purposes (I posted a picture of it some weeks ago on the blog).

Just a week later, on the 8th of April, the Bushmans Kloof rangers reported a springbok that had been killed by a caracal. Regardt Boshoff (the head ranger at Bushmans Kloof) contacted Quinton and it was decided to place the kill in the cage to see if the caracal could be captured.

The same day, at 9pm, while we were having a braai at Meg’s place to celebrate her first eagle capture and to say goodbye to Victor who’s going back to Spain, we received a call from Bushmans Kloof… A caracal was trapped in the cage! I couldn’t believe it, it was so fast, not even a week after we set up the trap!

We rushed to Matjiesrivier to gather all the equipment, the collar, the receiver… and off we went, to Bushmans Kloof, 2 hours and a half on dirt roads flooded by the recent rain. We arrived there at 11:30 pm and checked the trap. There was a caracal in the cage, a small one we first thought was a female. It turned out to be a young male of about 6-8 months old.

The little guy had fed a lot on the kill and was in very good condition. It was decided not to collar him because he wasn’t yet fully-grown. We still took all the usual measurements and placed the caracal back in a wooden box where he could wake up slowly.

I told you I was smiling! The youngster and I at Bushmans Kloof. Picture: Victor.

A decision was made to set up the trap again in an attempt to catch the young male’s mother (it was impossible that such a small guy could have killed a springbok of more than 30kg). Quinton and I went back to Matjiesrivier and arrived there at 3:15 in the morning, tired, ready to get some hours of sleep. But the caracals decided otherwise! At 7:30 am on the 9th, Quinton knocked at my door: Bushmans Kloof (BK) had called again and a second caracal was trapped in the cage! It was probably the mother of the youngster. We arrived at BK at around 9 am and found a female in the cage. She was pretty old with some broken teeth from old injuries (perhaps kicked in the face by an antelope?) and weighed 9.7kg, average for a female. She was still in good shape and was obviously fit enough to kill an adult female springbok of over 30kg. Cats are amazing!

Checking if the female caracal is anaesthetized after injecting the drug. Picture: Graham from Bushmans Kloof

I am putting some eye drops in the caracal’s eyes, to prevent them from being dry during the anaesthesia. Picture: Quinton Martins.

I am taking some measurements on the caracal while James is recording the data. Picture: Graham from Bushmans Kloof.

The anaesthetized female caracal. Picture: Marine Drouilly.

Quinton and I are weighing the cat. Picture: Graham from Bushmans Kloof.

The cat was fitted with a small GPS collar (175g), which will store 12 GPS fixes a day and release the collar on the 30th September thanks to its drop-off mechanism. At 10:45 the caracal was released and quickly disappeared into surrounding bushes.  It was an emotional moment!!

Releasing of the collared female caracal into the wild. Picture: Marine Drouilly.

The rangers at Bushmans Kloof are going to help with the monitoring of the collar points and the caracal, which is great and I would like to take advantage of this post to thank them, especially Regardt Boschoff (head field guide) and James Basson (assistant general manager). Thank you for your assistance with the monitoring of the cage and the trapping and for your help in the future monitoring of this cat. Many thanks also to Graham and Ronel, the general managers of Bushmans Kloof for your hospitality and the perfect lunch after the capture! And of course, a big thank to Quinton Martins for giving me the opportunity to be part of this study on these amazing cats and for teaching me all the trapping techniques and the processing of the felines when they are anaesthetized.

Thank you also to Mike Snethlage (http://flexipave.co.za/) for designing the rope cage and to the vet Dr Jennie Hewitt for volunteering her time to help us with the trapping this month.

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