Leopards are frequently found on private land outside national parks in South Africa. It is in these areas that leopards come into conflict with humans and are regularly shot in retaliation to game and livestock losses.
Large carnivores have disappeared from areas of high human density and the species most exposed to human conflict are the most prone to extinction. In this respect, private reserves play an important role in the replenishment of impacted free ranging leopard populations.
On the other hand private reserves can be seen as source of constant “problem” animals for livestock and game farmers. It is thus of vital importance to understand the ecology of leopards on private reserves and their relationship to their immediate environment.
In 2008, a leopard research project was established on Welgevonden, conducted by Lourens Swanepoel from the Centre for Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria.The project was used as a PhD study and continued for two years.
Population characteristics of leopards: age classes, size of leopards, population composition, population density, reproduction, mortality rate, population regulation
Home range and movement of leopards: daily movement of leopards, exploratory movements, movement patterns and home ranges, home range characteristics, home range occupancy, seasonal movements
Activity and habitat use of leopards: nocturnal versus diurnal movement, forms of activity, daily activity pattern, factors affecting activity, habitat availability, habitat use
Feeding ecology of leopards: method of killing of prey, behaviour at kills, feeding behaviour, savaging, diet, kill rates, impact on prey populations
Social organization or leopards: degree of sociality, land tenure system, spatio-temporal relationship among leopards, territories
Importance of the Welgevonden leopards to the stability of the leopard population in the Waterberg: recruitment of outside leopards, dispersal of Welgevonden leopards to the outside, impact of Welgevonden leopards on neighboring properties
Update: February 2013
The published results of the leopard research that took place on Welgevonden Game Reserve from 2006 to 2010 are now seeing the light of day. The abstracts for some of these papers can be viewed by following the links below. If the full article is required please contact one of the corresponding authors and request a copy of the paper. The paper on “Predictive modelling of leopard predation using contextual Global Positioning System cluster analysis” is available on open access and can be downloaded directly off the website for free.
Unusually High Predation on Chacma Baboons (Papio ursinus) by Female Leopards (Panthera pardus) in the Waterberg Mountains, South Africa
Jooste E, Pitman R.T, van Hoven W and Swanepoel L.H. Folia Primatol 2012;83:353–360
Predictive modelling of leopard predation using contextual Global Positioning System cluster analysis
R.T. Pitman, L.H. Swanepoel and P.M. Ramsay; Article first published online: 3 JUL 2012,
© 2012 The Authors. Journal of Zoology © 2012 The Zoological Society of London
Extent and fragmentation of suitable leopard habitat in South Africa,
L.H. Swanepoel, P. Lindsey, M.J. Somers, W. van Hoven, F. Dalerum,
Article first published online: 6 JUL 2012,
© 2012 The Authors. Animal Conservation © 2012 The Zoological Society of London