in the Landmark Foundation’s Leopard Conservation Project
The owners and team at Melozhori are very passionate about ethical conservation practices especially when it comes to endangered wildlife like Bontebok and also the elusive Cape Leopard. We are a proudly Leopard friendly reserve and we are also involved with the Landmark Foundation, helping them with their Cape Leopard Conservation efforts.
The common name, Leopard, is a combination of the Greek words leōn (lion) and pardos (panther), which reflects the ancient belief that the leopard was a hybrid between a lion and a panther.
“Secretive, silent, smooth and supple as a piece of silk, the leopard is an animal of darkness, but even in the dark it travels alone.” – J. du P. Bothma.
Dr Matthew Schurch, Human Wildlife Conflict Coordinator and Researcher from the Landmark Foundation stated: “The survival of Leopards in the Western Cape is coming under ever increasing pressure as a result of human encroachment and destruction of their habitat. They face daily dangers from gin traps, illegal snaring and roads. However, one of the biggest threats facing the leopards’ long-term survival is habitat fragmentation and isolation.”
Fragmentation is when parts of a habitat are destroyed, leaving behind smaller unconnected areas. This can occur naturally, as a result of fire, but is mostly due to human activity, like habitat being turned into agricultural development, roads being built, etc. For much of the wildlife that lives in the wild, the road is an obstacle that can only be crossed with difficulty, or not at all. A barrier has been created that effectively divides their habitat. What was once one habitat has become two smaller habitats.
Related article: Female Cape Leopard killed on the N1 highway near Worcester.
The Cape Leopard is smaller than the African Leopard, with males weighing on average 34kg, almost half of their northern counterparts. The Cape Leopard’s home range is also typically a lot larger - males easily cover 170-670 km² (up to 1190km²) and females between 74 and 200km². This makes fragmentation an even bigger threat to these majestic shy cats. Freedom of movement is of the utmost importance to the survival of the Cape Leopard.
For this reason, Melozhori decided to partner with the Landmark Foundation. Founded in 2004 the Landmark Foundation has recognised that the intact natural landscapes of the Southern African region are under threat from human activities. The Landmark Foundation strives to build the conservation economy so that Southern Africa’s natural landscapes can be effectively conserved.
Melozhori is situated at the eastern end of the Riviersonderend Mountains and to the west of the Langeberg mountains. Between these two ranges lies the Breede River and a landscape that has been highly modified for agricultural purposes. The questions we are asking is what is the connectivity between these two mountain ranges from a leopard’s point of view? Is there a suitable corridor of habitat that leopards can use to cross between the ranges and maintain a social and genetic connection? In August 2018 the Landmark Foundation set up the first of 5 camera stations on Melozhori to help them answer these questions.
“Our future aim is to have one of the Leopard moving through Melozhori equipped with a GPS collar in order for us to help assist the Landmark Foundation with monitoring their movement in our area. We were lucky on our first round of camera images to capture footage of one of these beautiful animals moving through our Reserve” – Coenraad Nell Reserve Manager at Melozhori Private Game Reserve.