Re-fitted with a GPS collar on 12 October, Lightning has not only become the most successful Namibia Big Cat Conservation and Research Project release study, but she also holds the record for being the world’s longest monitored free roaming leopard – seven magnificent years!
But how did it all begin?
This is Lightning’s incredible journey!
Some eight years ago in 2008, a farmer caught a young female leopard, her plight thankfully coming to the attention of the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary and their founders. Dr. Rudie and Marlice van Vuuren. They rose to the challenge of rehabilitating this young cat and giving her a future… a future of ultimate freedom.
It took almost a year of medical care, experienced rehabilitation techniques and committed devotion for the young leopard, named Lightning, to regain the peak physical condition required for the safest possible release – a release ultimately pitting her survival chances against wild odds.
But the vital data transmitted by her GPS collar ensured that contact with this extraordinary animal was not completely severed and her movements could be tracked and monitored and the project were able to follow her journey onto the Neuras Wine and Wildlife Estate, a 14 500 hectare reserve and prime carnivore research site – the place that Lightning ultimately decided to call home.
Approximately every two years the batteries of a GPS collar run dry, requiring collared cats to be cage trapped and re-collared in a bid to continue tracking their movements – movements which add to the scope of intensive research findings. Leopards are notoriously tricky to re-collar, their natural intelligence often preventing them from re-entering the confines of a capture cage. However, Lightning has seemingly realized that capture cages bring no harm, confidently entering them when her re-collarings beckon, and thus having allowed the project to continue monitoring her movements for seven years – a recognized world record in the animals of big cat research.
Data records show that Lightning has never targeted livestock, thus elevating her to the status of true non-conflict cat – a status that a remarkably high number of free roaming big cats hold, big cats who in the past would have faced tragically unnecessary persecution.
Camera trap images have also revealed Lightning with cubs, further emphasizing the successful niche that this incredible leopard fills in the wilds of Namibia.
Would you like to be a part of this ground breaking Big Cat Conservation Project – find out more about the two projects that you can join to help:
For more information contact Gemma or Pat on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on: 0117 253 0888