Floris Behnke: leopard

Leopard darting at Tuli

The sky turned a deep pink as the sun rose up and told the world it was time for another day.

But for the volunteers at Mohave camp in Tuli the day was already well on it’s way for today was Wednesday and that meant the end of adventure at Tuli for some of the volunteers and just the start of it for the new ones who would be arriving. Before Hannah and Jenny’s adventure ended, there was still time to check the leopard trap!

For weeks the volunteers had been working on trying to catch an adult male leopard (Panthera pardus) in order to put a Satellite collar on and track his movements, just one of the many animals Tuli focuses on for data collection. And for weeks there has been no luck at any of the bait sights… until yesterday where tracks and signs showed that a male leopard had been feeding off one of the impala legs put in a tree. The cage was moved there and the impala leg was placed in the trap in hopes that the leopard would be back that night to finish the job.

So with anticipation in the air the volunteers woke before sunrise and made their way to the cage. Andrew stopped the car just out of site of the cage and with rifle in hand headed off to check the trap while the volunteers waited anxiously in the car for his return. With a disappointed look he made his way back to the car and all thought there was no luck once again but he couldn’t keep the act up as he went on to tell us that indeed we had caught a leopard and a male at that so the darting will go ahead!

While waiting for the vet to arrive and the darting to take place Andrew walked the volunteers up the Great Wall of Tuli to see the leopard from a safe distance. Even from a distance you could see this was a large, powerful cat who was none too happy to be trapped in the cage. We all made our way back to Mohave Camp to meet with Stuart, the vet and also about 50 school children who were at Tuli for the week on a school trip and who had been helping with the baiting and to say goodbye to Hannah and Jenny who sadly had to meet the transfer and miss the darting.

Plans were quickly made so that everyone would get a chance to see the collaring of the leopard and it was cleared that the volunteers from ACE would be there helping and collecting data every step of the way. So back to the leopard we all went.

The vet, prepared the dart gun and with Andrew and Stuart armed and ready headed off to dart the leopard. Once sedated the volunteers Emily, Ollie, and Ted helped carry the leopard out of the cage and into the riverbed near by.

Here measurements were taken of the leopard’s body length, tail length, paws, and canines; then the collar was put on, the whole process taking about an hour. After a few group photos we left him to recover from the anaesthesia while we sat in the landy close by to make sure he awoke safely and to scare off any animals that could potentially harm him while he was unable to defend himself.

He came around slowly and gradually started to regain the feeling in his legs, stumbling and falling a few times but soon he was back to his old self and he wandered out of sight down the riverbed to recover completely somewhere safe. We all headed back to camp to meet for a celebratory lunch.

Leopard darting at Tuli