Objective of the flight

To track and download data from collared leopards in the Swartberg range of the Western Cape.

Report from the beneficiary  :  Jeannine McManus 

“On Monday the 11th of February, The Bateleurs provided the Landmark Foundation with its first tracking flight of 2013.  Not only was it our first flight in 2013, but it was a first ever for our new field manager, Alessandra Benton. It turned out to be a long flight of four hours, covering three mountain ranges.

We took off from Plettenberg Bay in the Jabiru with our pilot Barry Lipschitz and headed north towards the Swartberg Mountains. Once we arrived at the northernmost tip of our planned route, we moved in a grid-pattern covering the north and southern faces of the Swartberg and Kamanassie, scanning the mountain ranges and listening for a signal from the collared leopard, using a VHF telemetry.

We stopped in Oudtshoorn to refuel and then circled back for one last scan of the Kammanassie Mountains. Scanning this area from the ground would have taken approximately three to four days, but unfortunately, despite spending four hours in the air, we heard no signals and found no leopards.

While we have had a 70% success rate for finding the leopards from the air, they use massive ranges and there is always a chance of missing them – even with an aerial advantage. Nonetheless, it is by far the most effective way of searching for these animals, considering the ranges they cover and the kind of terrain they prefer.

We would like to thank The Bateleurs and especially Barry Lipschitz for this great opportunity to fly with such a wonderfully experienced pilot.”

Report from the beneficiary  :  Bruce Missing  

“On Thursday 21st March 2013 we flew another mission with Bateleurs pilot Barry Lipschitz, in his Jabiru. We have flown with The Bateleurs four times to try and download data from a collared leopard in the Swartberg mountains.  After so many flights with no success we had pinned all our hopes on finding this leopard on this flight.

We took off from George on a crisp and clear day and flew though the Outeniqua pass, then headed north east towards Oudtshoorn, then turned and flew east along the foothills of the southern slopes of the Swartberg.

After scanning the southern slope with no beep, we decided to fly on the northern side where we made one pass and then climbed to over 7000 ft, flying over the top of the range. It wasn’t long before we got a faint beep from the collar, which grew steadily into a strong signal. The break in constant static in the headsets with the sound of the tic from the collar was amazing – and couldn’t have come sooner. We switched from the vhf radio, which we use to locate the cat, to the uhf radio, which we use to download data from the collar. We downloaded 1191 points from the collar, nearly six months of precious leopard movement data. The collar collects a point every four hours, and we found that he had been roaming far and wide from the site where he was collared, using 65,000 ha in total. Looking at the data we can see that the cat is healthy and hunting frequently. This flight was rather short in relation to flights we have had in the past, but it was far more encouraging and successful!

We would like to thank the entire Bateleurs team, especially Mr Lipschitz, for all their assistance in tracking this elusive cat.

Was the flight objective met?   

“Overall it was a very successful mission. I would like to take this opportunity to thank The Bateleurs and Barry Lipschitz for flying this mission.  This data is vital for our understanding of the movements of leopards in the Cape and will go a long way towards assisting us to conserve these animals.”