One part of our work in leopard conservation, is to monitor leopard behaviour using GPS tracking systems. These systems are great when they work, but…….you’re ahead of me…….when they don’t they lead to no end of worry for us.
During the filming of a TV documentary with us last year (coming to your screen soon folks!), we collared a big female leopard that we called Lynsey. All was well and we were getting some great data from her collar, until around a month ago when the collar stopped working.
To be honest although no-one said as much, we were all worried about her. She could have been injured or killed in a fight (she was trying to take over her mothers territory), or worse, she could have wandered out of our protected zone and into a poacher’s snare.
Okay so those were irrational thoughts, after all we had no evidence to say there was a problem other than not receiving any data from her collar, but it’s just like having a child who has gone off to play without telling you. You can’t help but worry.
Anyway, there is a happy ending to the story. We have found Lynsey safe and well, however her very expensive collar is obviously faulty.
I have been offered a replacement for the collar, but that’s little compensation. I have caught and collared quite a few big cats and hyenas and it isn’t as easy as it sounds, nor is it something we do without considering a number of ethical and welfare issues.
The radio transmitter on Lynseys’ collar is still working (it’s just the GPS part that’s faulty), so we’ll keep monitoring her the old fashioned way. But we will put the replacement collar to good use. I have a friend who we visit on safari, who is helping to repopulate a huge wildlife reserve in Malawi. If he gets an injured leopards brought in to his centre that can’t be returned to where they were found (for whatever reason), then he sends them to Malawi. Where they form part of a very exciting international project to re-establish wildlife after years of deprivation.
I love it when a plan comes together…
Love them or hate them, vultures are an essential component of the eco-system of the African bush, yet are worryingly in serious decline.
We often see them on safari and they are a great indicator of where we might find lions, as they will hang around a kill waiting for their turn to clean up.
By finishing off the carcasses left by predators and even more importantly those of diseased animals, vultures prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases, which makes them an invaluable component in maintaining the balance.
Well that’s the nature lesson over, but to put my conservationist hat on for a moment, it is their decline that is a major concern. We all need to support vulture conservation efforts such as those at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
We visit Moholoholo as part of our safaris and also assist them in various conservation initiatives. Our visits are very popular and, often we are lucky to go behind the scenes and see the parts of their operation that aren’t open to the general public. After all that is part of what makes our safaris different.
Moholoholo have a vulture restaurant. No not a themed eating place for us humans, but an area of bush, where they regularly leave meat and old carcasses for vultures to feed on. It’s quite a sight to see hundreds of Vultures and Marabou storks in a feeding frenzy around a carcass.
Each species has its own place in the (excuse the pun) pecking order, taking turns to feed. The Moholoholo team have had some amazing success in rehabilitating (literally) hundreds of Vultures before releasing them back to the wild.
Long may they continue.
‘Welcome home” was the warm greeting that came with beaming smiles from our hosts Alan and Lynsey as we arrived at Black leopard Camp.
And that is exactly how it feels to our safari guests.
Black Leopard Camp is a luxurious haven, secluded away from the world, where one instantly feels at ease and part of the family.
Located only 3.5 hours from Johannesburg (about half way between the airport and the Kruger National Park) , the lodge has been designed to blend sympathetically with its environment, providing eco chic accommodation that offers an afro-colonial style, sumptuous meals and a welcoming air that stems from Alan and Lynsey’s passion for their lodge.
Cooking is one of Alan’s passions, which is evident from the quality and style of food served each day. Dinner is served in the tree top restaurant where the cosy atmosphere mixed with great company and lots of laughter have you feeling deliciously relaxed.
“You’ll sleep well tonight” was Alan’s comment as I made my way to my room after dinner. “Everyone does”.
He was right. The beds are huge and seem to draw you into enjoying a wonderful nights sleep. There are no man made sounds to disturb the night. Just the occasional warning bark of a kudu antelope, letting everyone know that he had seen a leopard patrolling in the night.
I was woken with an invigorating cup of coffee, served in the morning sunshine on my private stoop. I have to admit that the thought of a soak in my private outdoor bath before game drive, proved too much of a temptation. As I lay back and listened to the noises of the local troop of baboons going through their morning routine, I watched a pair of Black Eagles flying overhead, hunting along the mountainside opposite. A wonderful sighting, but only a taster of what was to come later.
Black Leopard Camp lies at the heart of its own 14,000 acre private game reserve, which is also home to the Ingwe Leopard Research team. The researchers have a small camp on the reserve; known locally as the conservation village, which we visited during the middle of the day. Black Leopard Camp guests can not only enjoy daily game drives and bush walks, but are able to meet the leopard research team, learn more about the resident leopards’ behaviour and be involved with their work if they wish.
A unique experience that emphasises a passion for nature and offers welcoming hospitality.
Tribes does a really good trip that includes Black Leopard Camp which you can find here.