For these reasons the foundation investigates where the corridors between potentially isolated populations occur and promotes and facilitates the use of non-lethal controls in these areas. We recently collared a male leopard in an important corridor which can link potentially isolated leopard populations of the Baviaanskloof and the Garden Route forests. This is an essential part of the puzzle. His movements are interesting as his range varies from protected mountainous terrain, indigenous forests, invasive wattle forests, pine plantations and agriculture. He will provide us with a lot of information on how leopards are affected within different land use areas.
Our research is ongoing and aims to best understand these elusive creatures in order to best manage them and the essential ecological processes they provide.
Ms Jeannine McManus is the research and field manager. She is currently doing her PhD with the University of the Witwatersrand.
Leopards are considered to be vulnerable in the Southern African region, facing the risk of extinction in the medium term (NEMBA, 2007). Locally in the Cape it is probably more correctly described as critically endangered. Loss of habitat, human-caused mortality, and isolation of small populations are major concerns in the conservation of large carnivores (Clark et al., 1996; Singleton & Lehmkuhl, 2001). The loss of habitat and connectivity between populations, compounded by continuing persecution of leopards cause population numbers to decline within many parts of their range (Rabinowitz & Winter, 2006).
Carnivore populations are critically important to maintaining healthy ecosystems (Terborgh et al., 1999; Terborgh et al., 2002). As top predators, the presence of large carnivores in an area has many important ecological consequences, such as the regulation of prey numbers, population control of mesopredators through competition, and maintenance of a functional balance of biodiversity in the local community (Krebs et al., 1995; Terborgh et al., 1999; Logan & Sweanor, 2001).
Predator conservation has to date operated primarily within the boundaries of existing protected areas, but there are several limitations in relying solely upon this approach: only around 5% of the world’s land area is formally protected (Gittleman et al., 2001; Mills et al., 2001; CIA, 2003). Furthermore, parks and reserves are unlikely to be large enough to successfully contain viable populations of large carnivores, which often range over exceptionally large areas (Woodroffe et al., 1997; Woodroffe, 2001; Marker, 2002).
The effective conservation of such species hinges on their protection over vast areas, and the management of conservation-compatible and carnivore/human conflict reduction strategies on human-dominated land outside the existing protected area network will be crucial (Nowell & Jackson, 1996).
This strategy, if successful, would create ‘corridors’ of available habitat and enable linkages between protected areas, with important implications for gene flow, dispersal and long-term persistence of previously fragmented large carnivore populations (Simberloff & Mehlman, 1992; Beier, 1993)
Cite as: McManus, J.S. (2009) Spatial ecology and activity patterns of leopard (Panthera pardus) in the Baviaanskloof and Greater Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape. M.Sc. Thesis. Rhodes University, South Africa.
RESEARCH RESULTS: LIVESTOCK MANAGEMENT
Research indicates that the use of protective livestock collars, livestock guarding dogs or Alpacas improve production on commercial farms by between 56 – 93%. These are the remarkable results measured over the first three years of non-lethal predator controls on 11 commercial farms (16 000 livestock units) in the Eastern Cape including the Graaff Reinet, Baviaanskloof, Jansenville, Cockscomb, Glenconner areas where predators vary from leopard to jackal and caracal. These results show that these methods are not only biodiversity friendly, but also very importantly economically viable management options. What is particularly noteworthy is that the production benefit, never mind the ecological and ethical gains, are across the board.