BiodiversityLeopard ResearchSabi Sand - South Africa
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Leopards are one of the most adaptable and resilient of the world’s large carnivores, and as a result, it is often assumed that the conservation status of the species is secure. However, like many other species, illegal hunting, habitat loss and the bushmeat trade are having a negative impact on leopard numbers.

In recent years Panthera, the world’s leading wild cat conservation organisation, has run camera trap surveys to determine leopard density across the species’ range in South Africa and some neighbouring countries. Many of these surveys have, however, been outside formally protected areas or in small reserves where proximity to human threats can negatively impact leopard density.

Singita’s Sabi Sand guides have for many years been providing data to Panthera about the reserve’s individually known leopards. This data suggests that this is one of the world’s best-protected leopard populations.

In 2017, Singita partnered with Panthera to run a camera trap survey on our land in the Sabi Sand to benchmark what is ecologically possible in terms of leopard density in a stable, well-protected population. The results of the survey were enlightening; at 12.2 leopards per 100km2, this is the highest density yet recorded by a Panthera survey.

Following the success of this partnership and concerns raised about potential poaching threats to Kruger National Park’s leopards, Singita and Panthera will run a further four surveys in Kruger, including Singita’s concession, as well as one on Karingani Game Reserve in neighbouring Mozambique, in 2018.

Key Successes:
12,557squiggle

Images were cataloged according to date, time, station location, species, and the number of individuals captured.

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24 individual leopards identified

How it worked:
  • Each camera station comprised two Panthera V6 digital camera-traps positioned opposite each other to photograph both flanks of the animal, and each fitted with a 2GB internal micro SD card.
  • 36 camera stations were set up by Panthera’s Monitoring Field Technician roughly 2km apart covering a 100 km2 area.
  • The stations were visited once every five days, to check that cameras were functioning, replace the batteries and download new images.
The result:
  • The tens of thousands of images were cataloged according to date, time, station location, species, and the number of individuals captured.
  • Using this data, Panthera’s scientists are busy piecing together the fascinating, cryptic world of leopard behaviour.
  • Their research findings will not only improve our understanding of the species but also help guide future decisions aimed at ensuring its survival.
  • The information gathered in this project provides a rare estimate of leopard density under natural conditions, establishes an important baseline for Panthera’s past and current studies, and contributes to South Africa’s National Leopard Monitoring Programme.
THE COST:
  • Operating cost for one survey: $3,500
  • One camera: $120
Other Areas of Conservation
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Biodiversity
Community
Sustainability