Stacks Image 5
The INGWE Leopard Research program has been researching leopard density and populations primarily within South Africa for over ten years. During this period we have developed scientific research techniques which have been recognised as providing much needed data to provincial authorities and other research institutes and scientists. We are now expanding our research operations. The main aim of this research is to identify the status of leopards.
Leopards (Panthera pardus) are widely distributed across the globe, with populations across sub-Saharan Africa and much of Southern Asia, found in India, China and Russia. Within Africa they are the last of the big five species living outside of protected areas. Leopards are extremely capable hunters taking a wide range of prey; with studies finding 30 different prey species in scat analysis (Estes.R.D 1999) ranging from small insects to large ungulates. Despite this however, the leopard population is in decline. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation) last assessed the leopard population in 2008 and classified it as near threatened compared to 2002 where they were classified as least concern. Within Africa alone it is estimated that around 35% of the leopards original home range, over the last ten years, has been lost; especially in areas of South Africa and Namibia (Ray et al 2005).

Leopards are threatened both directly and indirectly.
Outside of protected areas leopards are threatened by a number of issues. Illegal prosecution of leopards by livestock owners and illegal hunting is responsible for the deaths of many leopards through out South Africa, with studies showing at least 28 leopards in the Cape Mountains alone killed by gin traps in only 3 years (Hunter. L. 2010). The mortality rate is then also increased indirectly as a result of this. The number of male leopards that are at risk of being killed at the hand of man is far greater than the number of female (Blame G. and Hunter L. 2004) due to their larger home ranges which increases the chance of them leaving protected areas and roaming farmlands. Many species that show infanticide, as the leopard (Panthera pardus) does, have lower reproductive rates when there is high male mortality rate, hence high male turnover in an area (C.Paker et al 2009). This is due to the fact that dominant males are not around to protect their offspring from intruding males who will commit infanticide so fewer cubs survive to adulthood. Unknown numbers of leopard are also killed by other human influences for example road kills. Due to this increasing human conflict it is important to therefore study the density and status of the leopard outside of protected areas, an area of research that currently lacks quantifiable data.
Stacks Image 34
Research Protocol
This project protocol defines the INGWE Leopard Research standard operating research practices.
The INGWE Leopard Research program is a research project operating under the auspice of the On Track Foundation and in association with several Universities worldwide. The ILR conducts research into the behaviour of leopards (Panthera pardus) and other carnivores. Data on the density and behaviour of Leopards does not currently exist in any credible format, leaving a gap in understanding. Substantiated data is required to assist in the formulation of wildlife management policies.

Our research methods enable the study of leopard density, behaviour and population dynamic, taking into account the likely variables. The key reason for this research is to assist in the formulation of wildlife management policies, using scientifically gathered and recorded data. It is essential that management practices be established to address the issues that surround the conflict between people and predators.

All data is compiled via a bespoke database. This data will form part of an overall study of the leopard population in Africa. Furthermore the ILR aims at development and assistance of eco-tourism projects.

The ILR works in geographically key areas for the study of Leopards and other carnivores. ILR research is intended to eventually map the country to ascertain the status of the leopard and other carnivore population and observe seasonal changes on the population dynamic and note transitory movement and territorial behaviours.

Reserve Impact
The INGWE Leopard research team are experienced in operating in privately owned game reserves and as such conduct operations with the minimum of disruption to reserve operations. All operations are conducted to a pre agreed protocol and follow all local rules and practices as determined by the landowner/host.
In the case where rhino are present in a study area, the established format is to make no formal record of rhino and not to publish any data that indicates the presence of rhino. Any rhino related data can be made available to the host/reserve owners only (if required) and all other captured data is deleted from ILR records. In short, and in terms of our study reporting rhino do not exist.
In the case where eco-tourism is conducted in a study area, the ILR team shall assist those operations where feasible, by providing presentations to resident tourists if required.

Project Aim:
To determine the status of the leopard population in a research zone
To make recommendations as to the management of the mentioned population to the reserve management.
To support local eco-tourism in the area.

Determine the dynamics of the leopard population in the study area.
Determine their prey species and their impact on the activities of the human population within the study area.
Determine abundance of natural prey species.
Formulate policy and make recommendations for the management of the leopard population in order to promote a sustainable co-existence of leopard and human populations.

Key Questions:
How many established territories are there in the study area?
What are the age structure and sex ratio of the leopard population?
Which periods are the highest leopard activities?
What is the typical habitat preference of leopard in these areas?
What are the tourism practises in the above-mentioned areas?
What methods can be used to view leopards with the least disturbance?


Methods of operation are as follows:

Phase 1 – Establish population density
Camera Trapping. – Camera Traps will be placed along game trails to obtain photographs of resident carnivores and the locations recorded using GPS. Note: An initial zonal based study will focus on areas of the reserve where permission have been granted and will be expanded over time to establish home ranges. Thereafter these territorial areas will be further studied in detail.
Identification kits will then be created for each study animal. These ID kits will be gradually built up from camera trap images of known individual leopards, with the aim of creating a comprehensive collection of photographs per individual leopard (enabling spot recognition). With these elements in place, the movement and behaviour of each study animal can be noted by field researchers recording spoor locations and analysing scats.

Phase 2 – Study of resident carnivores
Once individual study animals have been identified, each animal will be given a study number. This number will be used to reference that animal thereafter, thus enabling population dynamic study.
Note: This element will encompass more than one study animal at any one time dependant on population dynamics, seasonal changes and home range overlap.

Population dynamics will be studied as follows:
Camera Trap and thereafter spoor recognition monitoring will continue to establish home ranges and behaviours.
Monitoring will continue for minimum one year with regular updates made findings published annually.

Phase 3 – Study report
All data will be entered into a bespoke database and reports made available to all interested parties as appropriate.

The ILR shall provide a monthly report on all local operations and results to the landowners/reserve hosts and any other body or persons that the landowner/reserve hosts determine.
The ILR may from time to time recruit individuals to assist with data handling i.e. citizen science via cloud based reporting.

Dr Tara Pirie


Dr Tara Pirie is a postdoctoral researcher at Reading University and ILR head of research. Dr Pirie lead our leopard research program on the Thaba Tholo wilderness reserve 2012-2015. During that period, Tara conducted research into leopard behaviour and dynamics within the reserve as part of her Phd from Reading University in the United Kingdom. Tara was the inspiration for our very successful Camera Trapper program. As a senior member of the INGWE leopard research team Tara continues to be involved in our work in a consultancy role for our research programs.

RESEARCHER - Carys Palmer BSc (Thaba Tholo Wilderness Reserve)


Carys Palmer co-ordinates our research in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, South Africa. Carys studied BSc Zoology at Reading University in the UK, which included a range of subjects such as behavioural ecology, anatomy and physiology, and conservation biology. As part of her degree, she travelled to Madagascar in the summer of 2013, to assist with research into the conservation of the islands wildlife. It was during this time that Carys further developed a passion for wildlife conservation. During the summer of 2014, she spent six weeks on Thaba Tholo Wilderness Reserve collecting data for her final year dissertation, which focused on the importance and conservation of leopards in unprotected areas of Southern Africa. After graduating in July 2015, Carys was thrilled to return to Thaba Tholo to join the INGWE Leopard Research team and contribute to the efforts of the team in protecting Africa's leopards.

RESEARCHER - Elliott Evans BSc Hons (WildRivers Nature Reserve)

Elliott Evans is a based at the WildRivers Nature Reserve, Limpopo, South Africa where he is responsible for local field work associated with leopard research within the Lowveld.


INGWE Leopard Research is extending its research network with three objectives:
• Increased research data from different habitat types and land usage.
• Support landowners and or local tourism initiatives
• Encourage wildlife education.

Landowner support
Our aim is to support landowners, reserves and associated tourism operations, by providing research scientists and camera traps. Also to train local staff, service camera traps and co-ordinate predator research in association with the landowner. The data and photographs that we gather as part of our research are made available to landowners and reserve/lodge managers in the form of a monthly research report as well as a selection of the best photographs. This meets our two key objectives of gathering more data and supporting local sustainable tourism initiatives.

Other research programs
INGWE Leopard Research offers support to other research projects in a number of ways:
• Supply of camera traps. We have developed relationships with camera trap manufacturers and buy camera traps at wholesale prices. We can offer these to research programs at cost price.
• We are happy to accommodate visiting researchers at our research base to gain an understanding of our research techniques.
• As part of our work, we gather data on a wide variety of species. Much of this species dependant data is not directly relevant to our work in leopard research. However we catalogue this data and are happy to share it with research programs and institutes.

Wildlife Education - Local schools
We regularly visit local schools to provide support in terms of conservation education. In addition we invite selected groups of pupils from schools that are local to our main research base, to visit our home reserve to understand more about our work and wildlife conservation in general.

Wildlife Education - Schools and Universities outside of South Africa
We are happy to liaise directly with schools and universities around the world and offer access to our camera trapper system and research team. INGWE CEO Will Fox regularly provides lectures at Universities during regular visits to the UK.

Stacks Image 19

Camera Trappers

Camera Trappers gives you the opportunity to be part of our team and to stay connected with wildlife in the African bush from wherever you live in the world. Not only will you be connected with Africa but you will also be supporting vital wildlife research aimed at conserving leopard numbers and other species. Join the On Track team of camera trappers and be part of our team. So how does it work? As a Camera Trapper we value your contribution to our work and keep you up to date with our progress. Each month you will receive some of the best pictures from the camera traps that you are helping to fund, placed in the African bush. Our leopard research team utilise an extensive network of camera traps placed on game reserves, but we need more cameras and to be able to maintain and service the existing stock. By increasing the number of cameras we can increase our research areas and collect more data to be able to provide sufficient information to model leopard behaviour and numbers. By joining On Track Camera Trappers program you will be actively supporting INGWE Leopard Research, as well as enjoying some amazing wildlife pictures sent to you each month.


What is a camera trap? Camera traps are digital cameras that are set out along game trails in remote locations within our various research sites. These camera traps are triggered by movement and operate 24 x 7, secretly recording the movement of animals in the bush and recording their behaviour without need for human presence or disruption of nature.


Why do you use camera traps? We use the camera trap images to identify individual leopards from their unique coat patterns. Each leopards coat pattern (spots and rosettes) is just like a finger print i.e. unique to each individual.  We have created identification kits (a series of photographs of each known leopard taken from various angles and sides) and it is by comparing the camera trap images to these ID kits, that we can determine if it is a known leopard and where and when it was located. In this way we can build up a picture of leopard movement, density and behaviour that is previously unknown. Of-course we don’t just get images of leopards any and all wildlife species that pass the cameras are pictures. From antelope to monkeys and predators to birds. This information can then be shared with governing bodies to assist them in credible and accurate decision making for the welfare of the species, as well as Universities.


Camera Trapper Annual membership £60 or $90 As a camera trapper member you will receive some of the best photographs taken by our cameras across several game reserves each month. To become a Camera Trapper simply make payment by bank transfer or using a credit or debit card via Paypal. Please ensure that when paying via Paypal, you add your contact details when ordering, or alternately if paying via bank transfer please use your surname as the reference. Once we receive payment then you will receive a confirmation email and thereafter our research team will place your camera out in the African bush at one of our research reserves. We will then be in touch to let you know to expect a monthly email with the best pictures from your camera. If you wish to purchase a camera trapper membership as a gift, then simply order as above, then let us know and we’ll send you a gift certificate and also register the associated members contact details. Just click the Pay Now button below to make payment by credit card via PayPal, or if you prefer to pay via bank transfer then use the Lloyds bank details shown.

Our bank account details are:
Bank Name: Lloyds Bank,
Bank Address: 101 High Street, Poole, Dorset, BH15 4AJ, United Kingdom
Account Name: On Track Safaris Ltd
Branch Sort Code: 30 96 73
Account Number: 50746668
International Payments BIC: LOYDGB21036
International Payements IBAN: GB39 LOYD 3096 7350 7466 68

Terms and Conditions

On Track Safaris operates the On Track Camera Trappers program in support of INGWE Leopard Research. All camera traps are the property of On Track Safaris and that company shall hold the copyrights for all photographs, which may not be reproduced without prior written permission. Please note, there is no guarantee as to the amount of pictures the camera will take or be sent, however 20-40 photographs is the average. We will endeavour to send you images every month, however if for operational reasons we are unable to send images in any particular month then you will not miss out, we will catch you up as soon as we can. The use of the camera shall remain the sole responsibility of the Ingwe Leopard Research for whatever purpose deemed necessary. Once a donation is received you will receive an email from the On Track Camera Trappers team to confirm membership. If you do not receive this notification within 10 working days of donation, please email Camera Trappers membership is valid for 1 year from the date of the first picture taken with the camera. At the end of the year the membership can be renewed. Only cameras recommended by the Ingwe Leopard Research will be entered into the scheme.
By donating to join On Track Camera Trappers you are agreeing to the terms and conditions herein.