After a few unplanned delays, we finally got the camera up and operating at Yellowwood on Friday, while the other side of the Du Toits valley burned. I chose to start with it down below the amphitheatre, and have mounted it where the path goes through the forest against a little cliff. The location of the camera is important to optimize sightings. It should be somewhere where most passing traffic is forced to follow a single path. I think this position is a good one, but it will depend on whether our friend is visiting that part of its territory. The camera is trained on a tree which the leopard scratches as part of its territory marking. We will capture it passing along the path beside the tree as well as scratching the tree if it does.
The set up team
There did not appear to be any very recent scratch marks on the tree, and scat in the are is old. If we don't capture the leopard in this area, I will move the camera up where the path goes around Smalblaar Ridge or in the vicinity of the Smalblaar Ridge bivvy site. It's just a little less accessible for battery changes up there.
The camera in its new home
The camera works on motion detection, and it will be triggered by anything travelling the path. It will be interesting to see what other species all use that path. You should spot the camera if you're going up to Yellowwood. And it will record your passing. Don't get a fright if you pass in the dark. The camera has quite a potent flash.
I will probably head up there out of inquisitiveness in the next few weeks to see what we've captured. The batteries last about a month, or more I think. But if you are going up to Yellowwood and are up for doing a memory card swap, let me know. Also please keep a look out for any leopard activity and signs, and let me know what and where you see anything.
Now if you'll just step this way...
Every individual leopard has a unique rosette pattern, like human fingerprints. So when we get a shot of our leopard, the Cape Leopard Trust will be able to identify whether it is one that has already appeared on other cameras in the general area, or whether it is a new one. There have been, or are, cameras to the south on Fisantekraal, on the way to Agtertafelberg, and to the north along the upper Witte Rivier Valley (Springstuigbeugel). To fully record a new leopard, we need to get photos from both sides, as they differ.
The Yellowwood camera was made possible by donations from Chris Jansen, Snort / City Rock, Rolfe Eberhard, Douw Steyn, Eve Watson, Adam Roff, Rob Zipplies, Herman van Zyl, Rob McKay, Ant Hall, Roger Diamond & Brendan Argent. Thank you.