A research project aimed at addressing the lack of scientific data currently available on the status of leopards (and other selective predator species) in South Africa is being launched by the country’s private hunting and safari sector in conjunction with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).
The project, headed up by TUT’s big predator behavior specialist, Dr Nkabeng Maruping-Mzileni, is the brainchild of the Limpopo Hunters Liaison Forum (LHLF). They are channeling it through the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa’s (PHASA) Conservation Research Fund (CRF), which forms part of PHASA’s Hunters Care initiative.
Phillip Bronkhorst, PHASA member and chairman of the LHLF explains: “For non-detrimental findings to accurately reflect the true status of leopards in South Africa, more scientific data on their habitat requirements, distribution and population numbers are required.”
This is where the hunting and safari sector, together with TUT, can play an integral role: Over the years, the LHLF’s web-based data programme, Catspotter, has proven to be a successful data capturing tool.
The LHLF made some improvements to the above to accommodate and meet the South African Biodiversity Institute’s (SANBI) data collection requirements: For scientific data to be considered for inclusion in non-detrimental findings, SANBI stipulates that all video footage or photographic images should clearly identify, illustrate and confirm the presence of free-roaming leopards in the area (e.g. spoor, leopard hair on prey etc.), and have the correct date and GPS coordinates on it.
“It is easy to upload photos or videos onto www.catspotter.co.za. And don’t despair if you don’t have a camera that indicates dates and times or GPS coordinates, we have a drag and drop tool that you can use to assign the exact location of the sighting and/or add the relevant dates and times,” says Bronkhorst.
Anything from trail cam photos to simple cell or smart phone images can be uploaded as long as it meets SANBI’s criteria above.
“The fact that citizen science can be included in our research makes the project unique, thorough, all-inclusive and exciting as any member of the public with the relevant scientific data to their disposal can contribute,” says Dr Maruping-Mzileni.
Bronkhorst adds that members of the safari and hunting community are ideally positioned to collect valuable scientific data on the above as they regularly interact with the predators included in the project.
The trail cams, baiting stations (used for data capturing purposes) and the wild game or domestic animals that leopard prey on and kill attract a wide range of the following smaller to medium sized predators that will be included in the research as well:
– African Wild Cat
– Civet Cat
– African Wild Dog (Cape Hunting Dog)
– Serval Cat
– Honey Badger
– Brown Hyena
– Spotted Hyena
– Wild Roaming Lion
– Genet cat
Being an ongoing private sector research initiative, funding is essential.
“We need to raise approximately R 1.5-million to see the project through the first year, and will be approaching our partners in the hunting, safari and other sustainable use sectors, amongst others, to raise the above,” says Bronkhorst.
While associated costs are expected to decrease as the project moves along, “it will take a minimum of three years to collect the scientific data required,” adds Dr Maruping-Mzileni.
*Contributions made to the project through PHASA’s Conservation Research Fund are tax deductible.
ISSUED BY THE PROFESSIONAL HUNTERS’ ASSOCIATION OF SOUTH AFRICA IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE PHASA CONSERVATION RESEARCH FUND, TSHWANE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY AND THE LIMPOPO HUNTERS’ LIAISON FORUM
MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Contact or 083 353 6811
*MORE ON PHASA’s CONSERVATION RESEARCH FUND:
The overall aim of PHASA’S Conservation Research Fund is to:
• Unite and represent sustainable wildlife use stakeholders;
• Appoint and capacitate scientist/s and field workers to do research that will be internationally indisputable and respected;
• Create a centralised national data base for wildlife research and statistics;
• Use the data to assist the wildlife sector to manage its resources responsibly;
• Use the data to assist the wildlife industry’s government partners to develop enabling legislation and wildlife management policies;
• Gather factual information that can be used to inform the public on the socio-economic value of responsible and sustainable utilisation of South Africa’s natural resources.