After all the preparation of the past few months, weeks and days, we could finally get the expedition underway. Our team of volunteers arrived not only with bags of energy, enthusiasm and kit, but also boxes of wine! You sometimes get an instant feeling that you have a good group 😉
With initial introductions, orientations and risk assessments completed, we could get down to the real business of field research. This was kicked off by Matt Macray (a Masters student) who is working on the impact of electric fences on leopard tortoises. This was followed by our project scientist (Alan) giving an overview of field research to date at Blue Hill, and outlining the targets for this years expedition.
One of these is to trap a Cape leopard, so it can be fitted with a tracking collar, to better understand its movement patterns within the fynbos environment. Cue a field briefing on the cage traps used to trap leopards.
We were also joined by Harry Lewes of the Landmark Foundation, who are working to protect leopards across much of this region of South Africa. Not only was he able to brief our team on leopard capture, but also give an overview on the plight they face in South Africa and the great work that is being undertaken to conserve them across their range. Much of this is reliant on current data, such as the information from Blue Hill.
With some additional practical sessions on field equipment and survey techniques completed, our group are now almost ready to begin the vital data collection, and we are hopeful of some positive early results!