Conserving Leopards and Monkeys in South Africa

Despite leopard's bad reputations, primates are cited even more often as the major pest species by many landowners.

On this expedition, you'll assist scientists conducting research in three areas that are critical for conserving mammals in South Africa: (1) investigating the presence and diversity of keystone and flagship species within the Soutpansberg mountains, and assessing the population stability of species of conservation concern; (2) assessing the extent of human-wildlife conflict, especially in the contexts of livestock losses due to predators and crop-raiding from primates, and investigating possible mitigation strategies; (3) increasing environmental awareness in local communities to help them respond to the conservation challenges of land reform and land use change.

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What to Expect?

You’ll help researchers assess the role of the Soutpansberg Mountains in biodiversity conservation. This area is believed to have one of the highest densities of leopards anywhere in the world. You’ll be assisting with camera-trapping, GPS data collection and scat analysis, and conducting observations of mammalian behavior. The data you help collect will provide detailed information on the potential for managing human-wildlife conflict in this important region, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. You'll help determine the actual extent of livestock depredation, a chief source of community concerns over animals like leopards, hyaenas, and other predators. You'll also help study the actual rate of crop destruction by primate species, another key source of human/wildlife tension in the region.

When working with the chacma baboon, vervet monkey, and samango monkey aspects of the project, you'll orient your activities around the timing of dusk and dawn at the time of year you're in the field, generally conducting full day "follows" of the animals by arriving at their sleeping-sites before they stir and monitoring them until they return in the evenings. (You'll have time to rest at camp after these full-day activities.)

Pre-dawn activities could include checking on leopard camera-traps that have been set the night before, and some evening activities could include visiting monkey sites to help remotely download data from tracking collars. Although many activities will be conducted with the aid of a vehicle that will be used to transport equipment and volunteers over longer distances, many activities will allow you to work on foot in this beautiful ecosystem. For example, you may walk 5-10km carrying a day pack, GPS, batteries and notebook computers to some camera trap sites. Day-follows of primates may require similar distances and packs, though at a slower pace, sometimes over rugged terrain and through some vegetation.

  • Program ID: # 1737
  • duration:
    1 to 2 Weeks
  • location:
    Soutpansberg Mountains Polokwane
    South Africa
    23° 32' 24" S, 29° 16' 12" E
  • Fitness level:
    Moderately Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Polokwane (PTG)
  • Costs From:
    $1500 to $3000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
    Learn Abroad
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