Oldrich van Schalkwyk, Manager, Soutpansberg Protected Areaoldrichvs@ewt.org.za
The EWT’s is committed to protecting wildlife, while at the same time assisting neighbouring communities in minimising livestock losses in the Soutpansberg Protected Area (SPA). We therefore recently , volunteered the services of the Medike Nature Reserve’s anti-poaching unit to sweep the neighbouring Ndouvhada Communal land for snares. After meticulously covering about 50 hectares outside the reserve’s southern boundary, the SPA rangers removed 56 active snares. Unfortunately, they also found the lost breeding bull of a community cattle farmer, killed by a poacher’s snares, as well as a snared Vervet Monkey. Fortunately, no snares were found during patrols on Medike Nature Reserve during this period.
The team is also assisting the Primate and Predator Project (PPP) from Durham University, UK, based on Luvhondo Private Nature Reserve, to try and capture a snared female Leopard, whose territory stretches over the neighbouring farms of Ottoshoek and Ottosdal. The snare was most likely picked up on Ottosdal, where a number of snaring cases has been reported by PPP researchers. Four bomas were set up, each with a foot-loop capture system, as this is a more humane way of capturing large predators than the use of box traps. Currently the traps are kept closed until the snared female is sighted via scout cameras at the bomas. This is to avoid capturing non-target animals. This proved to be a good strategy as a male Leopard went into one of the bomas three times on the first night!
Known as Tokoloshe, the snared Leopard is a five-year-old territorial female on the only commercial farm, Ottosdal, on top of the far western Soutpansberg. She was last photographed on 9 May 2018, this time in a remote, almost inaccessible, area of Ottoshoek (east of Ottosdal). She was still wearing the snare but it seemed to have loosened a bit, giving us hope that there is still time to save her. We have placed more trail cameras around the area where she was seen last and if seen again here, will place capture bomas in this remote area. We are also working to get some hounds that can tree her for darting, as an alternative to the bomas. We continue to persevere in hope that she can still be helped. Once caught, the snare will be removed and the Leopard will be given the necessary medical attention to best ensure her survival.
This work is made possible by Rainforest Trust, who is funding the SPA’s anti-poaching unit, and the Roberts family in Australia, who donated the funds to purchase the EWT’s first protected area in the Soutpansberg, from where the SPA team currently operates.