Counting cats in the Matopos: The Mangwe Leopard project

Posted on April 25th, 2012 in Featured Conservation,General by Alta

This post is the second in our series featuring Zimbabwean Conservation projects and organisations. This time round, we visit a recently completed project in the beautiful Matobo hills.

The Matopos or Matobo Hills, owes its name (meaning “bald heads”) to the granite kopjes that characterise this unique landscape. The hills cover about 3100 km² and is deemed extremely important culturally (it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003) as well as ecologically (it hosts over 200 species of trees and the world’s largest concentration of black eagles, to name a few).


But it’s not only a site of rock art, trees and birds – the kopjes and wooded valleys offer prime leopard habitat. Although these carnivores have long been known to occur here, until recently nobody really had any handle on the size of the population, their habitat preferences or movement patterns.

Tanith Grant’s project attempted (and succeeded) in addressing these gaps. Over three years, with the help of trained members of the local community, she collected information using telemetry, camera traps and other census techniques that ultimately enabled her to come up with the first population estimate of the predators in the Mangwe area.

This information, together with her spatial movement data, now allow the Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife authority (ZPWA) to devise and implement better management strategies for the sustainable conservation of a top predator that is both ecologically and economically valuable and affecting.

Photos: Tanith Grant

You can find Tanith’s project on MAPA’s conservation layer for Google Earth. Click here to download the KML file and then double click on the downloaded file to open it in your “Places” panel in Google Earth. Search for “Mangwe Leopard Project” (like in the screenshot below) to find this project (remember that you can add your own project to this map!).


Also be sure to check out Rhodes University’s Wildlife and Reserve Management Research Groups’ website to learn more about some of the other research this group is involved in.

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