FINE-SCALE POPULATION SURVEYS
Camera-trapping surveys are conducted by Panthera throughout key leopard range in South Africa. Although leopards are widespread, their status is by no means secure and large numbers are killed every year. To ensure effective conservation, it is important to know where leopards are, how many there are, and most critically, how populations change over time.
However, monitoring leopards is challenging due to their secretive nature and wide-ranging behaviour, and we rely on modern technology and powerful statistics to reliably estimate leopard numbers. Panthera currently conducts annual camera-trapping surveys in the Western Soutpansberg Mountains (Lajuma and adjacent properties), Makalali Game Reserve, Venetia-Limpopo Nature Reserve, Welgevonden Game Reserve, Timbavati Game Reserves, Atherstone Nature Reserve, Wonderkop Nature Reserve, Zingela Game Reserve, Somkhanda-Zimanga Game Reserve, uMkhuze Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Private-Amakhosi Game Reserve, Royal Hlane Game Reserve, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, Thakazulu-Onverwacht Game Reserve, Maputo Special Reserve, Tembe Elephant Park, Zululand Rhino Reserve, Futi Corridor, Ithala Game Reserve, and St Lucia Eastern Shores.
Approximately 40 camera-trap stations within each survey site, spread roughly equally throughout the area. The survey area must cover at least 20 000 ha, as this will ensure reliable and scientifically robust estimates. Each station comprises two cameras, enabling the Panthera teams to photograph both flanks of a leopard as it walks by. The Panthera teams distinguish individual leopards by the unique spot patterns on their coats, and use statistical models (known as capture-recapture models) to assess how often an individual is photographed (or captured) compared to other individuals. These data are combined with information on where leopards were photographed to generate a robust estimate of leopard population density for each survey site.
Capture rates from surveys conducted across northern South Africa since 2013 (larger circles indicate higher capture rates)
Age-sex composition of leopard captured (photographed) during surveys across South Africa since 2013