MISSION 15 of 2012
Name of Mission: Leopard Tracking for CLT
Date of Mission: 25 July 2012
Aircraft used: Jabiru 4
Pilot: Barry Lipschitz
Beneficiary: Gareth Mann of the Cape Leopard Trust (CLT)
Objective of the Flight
To try to locate any of the three collared leopards roaming the Gamkaberg and Rooiberg Mountains of the Little Karoo.
Beneficiary report by Gareth Mann of the Cape Leopard Trust (CLT)
“I met Barry at Oudtshoorn Airport shortly after 13h00, and we then spent some time attaching the tracking antennae and cables to the plane and making sure they were secure for the flight. Barry then showed me his proposed flight path over the search area, and I was satisfied that this would allow us to search the area thoroughly. We took off at around 14h00 and flew along the northern side of the Gamkaberg and Rooiberg Mountains, before climbing and flying back along the central east-west ‘spine’ of the mountain. Finally, we flew westwards along the southern side of the mountain.
Unfortunately I was not able to pick up a signal from any of the collared leopards. However, these leopards were collared in 2010, so it is possible that the batteries on the collars had run flat. The difficult terrain of the area, which is characterised by very deep, incised valleys, also makes it difficult to search – even from the air!
After completing our final sweep of the area, we headed back to Oudtshoorn, with Barry demonstrating his skills along the way. The flight lasted just under two hours.”
In what way did this flight serve to answer the stated objective/s?
“I was not able to locate the collared leopards. I have not received data from any of these leopards since November last year, and two of them have not even been photographed by camera traps that I have set up at locations that they usually frequent. I had hoped to locate them from the air to see whether they were still alive, and, (if not attempt to establish the cause of death and retrieve their collars.
The absence of any signal suggests that either the batteries on the collars have run down, or the collars have been damaged and no longer function, or that the leopards were under an overhang or some other feature that inhibits transmission.”
What actions are likely to be taken as a result of this flight?
“While I will continue to search for the two ‘missing’ leopards, there would appear to be little point in doing another aerial search again unless I am able to establish, by means of our camera traps, that they are still in the area. I am currently trying to recapture the third leopard, which I still regularly photograph, in order to remove his collar, and these efforts will continue.”