From our working holiday volunteering with leopards, caracals and Cape biodiversity in South Africa

After an early start for the final pieces of preparation, we were finally able to welcome our first group of citizen scientists for 2017 to the ‘Carnivores of the Cape Floral Kingdom’ expedition.

The team all arrived safely, and if anything, slightly earlier than expected. We have a great mix in our team in terms age and experience; including a couple of Biosphere Expeditions newcomers (welcome Libby and Sandy) and several veterans.

After a little time to settle in and with initial introductions, risks assessments and briefings completed, we headed straight into the field. It was time for a crash course in mammal mapping and camera trapping. Alan (our scientist) was keen to get some additional cameras deployed – to monitor our target carnivore species – whilst also getting the team used to mammal mapping.

The mapping was completed from the back of the 4x4s whilst others in the team also got used to driving the 4x4s. Our two transport options on the project are either ‘by foot’ or ‘by 4WD’. All vehicles, drivers, and mammal mappers returned to base in one piece. And our top spotter was one of our newcomers – great work Libby.

Day two involved a lot of preparation work for the vegetation monitoring and mammal trapping. Large area of the research area was burnt earlier in the year, so our small mammal traps now need insulating from the cold and the heat – cue a morning of trap shade construction. The rest of the day was spent deploying the traps.

The burnt areas of the reserve (there was a large bush fire earlier in the year) offer a unique opportunity to compare this year’s data to previous (unburnt) years and hopefully better understand how the fynbos responds to, and recovers from, fire – after all it is a fire-driven ecosystem with many plants needing fire to germinate. Over the coming days we’ll all be breaking new ground in terms of understanding the ecology of this mountain fynbos environment.

4WD training
Burnt protea
Camera trapping
Deploying mammal traps
Double collared sunbird
Double collared sunbird
Heading back to base
Learning to camera trap
Making trap shades
Preparing stakes for vegetation plots
Small mammal traping

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