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

There is much good news to report. Firstly the weather has warmed again, with murmurs of it now being too warm for fieldwork….is that possible?

Despite the climatic yoyo, our fieldwork programme is now in full swing, with at least two more honey bush monitoring sites being established and data recorded. The mammal mapping programme continues to document the distribution of most mammal species across the Blue Hill Reserve. Both surveys benefit from the aid of technology, using bespoke Android Cybertracker apps for data entry. We always hope we have some Android users in the group – thank you Tobias and Elena.

But the mammal mapping doesn’t cover all species. For the bats, technology is again our friend, as high frequency microphones can be plugged into iPhones or iPads (who are we to not share stuff equally between the greedy corporate giants). Combine these with the magic of a Bluetooth GPS and a bat identification app, and we can detect and map that which we can’t even see! Finally, smartphones can live up to their name and be positive force for conservation research.

You still have to walk the walk tough – well, do the 2 km transect at night. But that just offers more opportunities to map nocturnal mammals. And who knows when you may bump into a cat! Despite this ‘incentive’, it is still a tough ask if your day in the field started at 06:30 (or earlier).

However, no amount of technology is substitute when it comes to small mammals, as live traps are still the default preference. Our trapping programme has continued, repeating the survey of 2016. The surprise is our capture rates have almost doubled, and again we are recording species not previously documented. Next week, we will trap completely new site, so have high hopes.

I will let our scientist (Alan) crunch the data to see if the results thus far are a function of the recent fire? There is still much to learn about how the fynbos functions and supports such a diverse fauna.

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