Image credit: CLT Boland Project

In 2011 the organizers of the FNB W2W MTB events donated five digital camera traps to the CLT Boland Project. According to Jeannie Hayward of the CLT Boland Project the FNB W2W cameras act like “permanent fieldworkers”, recording animal movement day and night, rain or shine. “Placing these cameras along the FNB W2W routes gave the Boland Project the opportunity to survey new locations within the study area, not only for leopard activity but also for the presence of other nocturnal and shy mammals like the Honey Badger, Cape Fox and Genet. We visit the cameras every three months to put in fresh batteries and swap memory cards. Opening a memory card is like opening a lucky packet. We always go through the photos in great anticipation – just waiting for that familiar form of a large spotted cat to pop up on the screen. Over the past 3 ½ years we have literally seen hundreds of leopard photos, but it never gets old. Leopard photos are ideal research tools, since each individual leopard has a unique rosette pattern on either side of its body. We can therefore create “identikits” for every leopard and in this way estimate the number of leopards in an area and also study their movements,” says Hayward.

“We are very positive about our association with the FNB W2W,” says Anita Meyer the CLT Boland Project. “Although leopards roam widely and are very adept at moving around in their rugged mountain habitat, they often utilise trails and roads – especially the males who need to regularly patrol and mark their large territories. The network of gravel roads and single tracks utilised by mountain bikers thus also serve as “highways” for leopard patrols. Most people living in and visiting the Boland area still don’t realise that there are wild leopards roaming free in the mountains right on their doorstep. We hope that the leopard photos obtained along the FNB W2W routes have made many mountain bikers appreciate the fact that they share their mountain playground with such an elusive, magnificent creature”.