From our working holiday volunteering with leopards, caracals and Cape biodiversity in South Africa (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/southafrica)

Let the science commence! With the training completed on the various methods, our surveys could begin for real. For the next few days we’ll be ‘hunting’ high and low to find the mammal fauna of the of the fynbos.

The first job of the day is always the leopard trap – a large cage trap, which will hopefully tell us which of the cat species is moving through the local area. But we’ll also get some interesting by-catc, and the last couple of mornings we have trapped grysbok – a small antelope almost entirely restricted to the fynbos vegetation. All are released to continue on their way.

Our day yesterday then continued with flush surveys. Basically a large transect survey, with multiple people, whereby we can document the mammal and birdlife in a specific area. Our first survey was in the Welbedacht section of Baviaanskloof. It also gave the team an opportunity to deploy a few more camera traps to hopefully catch the elusive and wide-ranging leopard.

Whilst the science went to plan, the transportation was a different matter. Our local ranger, Eksteen decided that he and Christine would take the vehicle to meet us at an entirely different point to one agreed with our scientist, Alan. The upshot meant a long walk out of the survey area and a late lunch. Though we took the opportunity to drive through the Nuwekloof pass – a stunning rock canyon where stumbled across two leopard tortoises in a rather noisy embrace!

In addition to getting the flush surveys underway, we also now have 50 Sherman traps deployed with half of them up the now infamous protea slope. Locating the pre-marked trapping points in head height protea bushes is certainly a challenge – think needle in a haystack on a 40 degree slope. But as with much scientific survey work, hard graft usually pays off. We’ve already been rewarded with several captures, including a species not on our provisional list, though we await confirmation.

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From our working holiday volunteering with leopards, caracals and Cape biodiversity in South Africa.

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