The secret life of leopards
Thanks to camera work using camera trappers, photographer Villiers Steyn has collected a variety of shots and video clips of so many wonderful leopard sightings – leopards mating, leopards sneaking through a fence, leopards on a kill, leopard cubs at the Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate the list goes on…
Yet he remains modest about what he is doing.
“This is not a scientific project,” stresses Villiers Steyn as he brings up dozens of leopard images on his screen. It may not be research in the academic sense, but Steyn’s informal crowd-sourced camera trap survey of the leopards on the Estate is none-the-less yielding a lot of interesting information about living with leopards.
“The moment we moved to Hoedspruit from Pretoria in November 2013, these leopards became a part of our life,” says the well-known guide and photographer. He had studied leopards in the Tuli block as a Conservation Masters Student between 2004 and 2007, and regularly photographs them while leading safaris in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve.
When he bumped into a leopard known as Big Boy on the 600ha Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate in 2014, he realized these cats were once again going to be part of his daily life. The leopards are active mainly at night, avoiding people during the day. “For people, there are obvious risks to living in the bush, but we all know that,” Steyn suggests. He believes that the majority of residents seem to have enough love for these animals to be cautious and respectful of them.
The traps have also shown that there are at least 4 spotted hyena that use the estate, along with honey badgers, aardvarks, civets and more. “Living together like this is not necessarily unique to this area. The camera traps have just opened our eyes to this amazing nocturnal world. It’s incredible what goes on while we sleep.”