Mission: Locating collared leopards
Requesting organisation: Landmark Foundation
Location: Eastern Cape
Pilot: Reid Wardle
Jeannine McManus, Research and Field Manager for the Landmark Foundation, requested our assistance with tracking collared leopards, this time in the Eastern Cape. Pilot Reid Wardle volunteered for this mission, following which we received this report from Jeannine.
A Morale Booster for the Landmark Foundation
by passenger Jeannine McManus
“We took off from Port Elizabeth airport at about 09h00 after our pilot, Reid Wardle, had refuelled his Cessna C170. We set off with a head-wind and it took us about an hour and a half to arrive at the furthest point of our survey area, which was east of Uniondale. We flew along a grid and eventually we had scanned an area of approximately 200,000ha. We were all hoping to hear at least one beep from the VHF telemetry alerting us that we were close to a leopard to download information, but after two-and-a-half hours we had not picked up a single signal from any of the leopards.
The mountainous terrain of the Baviaanskloof
We continued surveying as we travelled back towards PE and when we were about 45 min from the airport we eventually heard the VHF sound its first beep! The GPS handheld device which communicates with the collar on the leopard had picked up Collar 3805. This is a female leopard we had collared on 7th January 2009, and we were able successfully to download the data from her collar. This was a great morale booster for us! Three hours of searching for six leopards and finally we achieved what we had set out to do. I had been searching for this cat on the ground since June 2009, and it was amazing trying to find her from the air. Her data had changed since we last downloaded and we now know that this particular female leopard utilizes 15,000ha of mountainous terrain. It was a great experience and we are so grateful for the opportunity provided by The Bateleurs.”
A view through the window showing the telemetry equipment strapped to the airplane strut