MISSION 09 of 2012
Name of Mission: Leopard Tracking in the Baviaanskloof
Date of Mission: 4 and 5 May 2012
Pilot: Barry Lipschitz
Aircraft used: Jabiru 4
Beneficiary: Jeannine McManus of the Landmark Foundation
Intro for the Annual Report:
This mission was requested by Jeannine McManus of the Landmark foundation, forwhom we have flown several leopard tracking missions in the past. Jeannine again needed assistance from The Bateleurs to track, in particular, an elusive female leopard ‘hiding’ in the inhospitable terrain of the Baviaanskloof, in the Eastern Cape.
The flight took place on 04 May 2012 in a Jabiru 4 flown by pilot Barry Lipschitz.
The objective of the flight:
To locate and download GPS data from a female leopard in the Baviaanskloof area
Beneficiary’s report by Jeannine McManus of the Landmark Foundation
The Leopard and Predator Project : Leopard tracking over the western Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape
“We departed from Plettenberg Bay in a Jabiru flown by Barry Lipschitz, a pilot with over 50 years experience who was flying his inaugural flight for The Bateleurs. We made our way to the Baviaanskloof over the beautiful mountains around DeVligt, toward the town of Uniondale. A little way east of that point we started scanning an area of about 200 km² for a female leopard for whom we have been collecting data for about ten months.
We flew a grid formation covering the leopard’s known range, in such a way that we were sure we would download her data. Unfortunately, we did not pick up anything from her collar: not a single beep … just the fuzzy sound of VHF hazing in my ear, with no break in consistency.
We flew over the area for about two hours before deciding to head back to the airport. Maybe it was the cool weather which made her move into a cave, which would restrict her collar from sending a signal; maybe she had made a kill and was concealed – it could have been be anything. Our success in downloading data from the air is around 60 % in the Baviaanskloof because of the deep gorges and caves, and success has a lot to do with luck and a little to do with the flight plan. Barry was so eager to get the data that we decided to try again the next day.
The following day we headed out from Plettenberg Bay in the morning. We flew over the Outeniqua Mountains toward Uniondale and started the grid formation flight again. But again we heard not a peep from the equipment. We continued for a further two hours without any luck, and decided to end the search. We returned to Plettenberg Bay, flying along the scenic Keurboom river.
It was an incredible opportunity to fly with Barry who is an exceptional pilot. I so wish we had obtained the data, for my own sake but also to have had a successful mission, as this was Barry’s first flight for The Bateleurs, but we were just out of luck.
A sincere thank you to The Bateleurs for the opportunity to fly with such an experienced pilot, as well as the opportunity to download data from these elusive leopards in this way. The aerial advantage makes a big positive impact on the research project. I can honestly say that, over the last three years you have helped this project reach many of its goals. Many thanks for arranging and flying these missions for us – next time we’ll have more success.”