Saturday wasn’t much of a day off for Team 5 because we caught a leopard overnight at the Bergposten box trap. It’s interesting how we go about our data collection day after day, the diligence of checking the box traps twice a day, and while we always remain hopeful, it still comes as a delightful surprise when we do have our target species in the trap.
Vera was ecstatic. She and Joerg rode up to take a look at the animal and to put a shade cover over it.
Weighing in at 67.5 kg, the leopard was determined to be an adult male of sufficient size to collar. Samples were taken of his conjunctiva, saliva, capillary blood from his ears, arterial blood, and fecal samples. The Biosphere team was able to watch the entire process except for the initial immobilization darting at the trap. We did get to hear it, however, and at that moment it sounded like it was a 200 kg leopard!
The team did a really great job of being flexible, and driving around the farm to check on the other box traps late that evening, despite being tired and hungry. I volunteered to check the cheetah trap near Gustavposten on the way home, and after much confusion about how I was to simultaneously open doors on both ends of the trap AND lock the trigger mechanism all at the same time (remember we were all tired and hungry!) Peter and Geoff came to my aid and helped me re-set the trap.
Here is my favourite advice from Namibian conservationist John Kasaona. This was advice given to him by his father, who is a poacher turned conservationist.
“My father taught me that when you see a cheetah feeding in the wild, you just slap it on the butt, and it will run away. If you see a lion face to face, stand your ground son, and look big. It might turn away. But if you see a leopard, you run like hell boy. You run faster than the goats you are herding.”
Having seen how powerful an angry leopard is when caught in a box trap, I think that’s really good advice.