One of the biggest draw cards to Mountain Biking as a sport is the great outdoors – with routes and trails taking riders to the most beautiful vistas, pristine wilderness areas and tranquil, yet exhilarating, open spaces. This is exactly what participants of the 2011 Contego Wines2Whales MTB Adventure and Race can look forward to in November this year, 04 – 06 and 11 – 13 respectively.
The name says it all – taking part in teams of two (male/female/mixed) riders will start in the Winelands of Somerset West at Lourensford Estate, and cross through (and over) 13 wineries, 26 private farms, six mountains, historic roads and the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, before finishing within sight of the famous whales of Hermanus!
Cyclists, however, are not the only traffic on these routes. Some other, more elusive creatures also like to make use of this network of gravel roads and single tracks – Cape mountain leopards (Panthera pardus). These nocturnal animals are highly territorial creatures that regularly patrol and mark their territories. Like humans they prefer the path of least resistance and consider these as ideal ‘highways’ for their patrols.
This habit of these majestic cats has spurred the organisers of the Contego Wines2Whales events to donate five remote-sensing field cameras to the Cape Leopard Trust Boland Project, where researchers are currently conducting a survey of the leopard population. After scouting for leopard tracks and droppings, the donated cameras will be placed along sections of the route where leopard activity is suspected. The Wines2Whales cameras will be placed during July/August and photos will subsequently be posted on the event website, www.wines2whales.co.za.
Leopard photos from remote sensing cameras – which have an infrared beam that senses heat and motion – are ideal research tools to capture images and study leopards, since each individual leopard has a unique spot or rosette pattern on either side of its body. The researchers can therefore create “identikits” for every leopard and in this way estimate the number of leopards in an area as well as study their movements.
The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve has formed part of the Cape Leopard Trust Boland Project’s four month Southern Survey, ending in May 2011. To date, the Cape Leopard Trust has identified 16 individual leopards in the Southern Survey study area – which comprise of Jonkershoek and Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserves, the Kogelberg Biospere Reserve, as well as adjacent privately owned land.
Organizers of the Contego Wines2Whales MTB Adventure and Race have offered an annual donation to further leopard research and conservation in the region. They also urge mountain bikers to make contributions towards the Cape Leopard Trust to promote the conservation of the Cape leopard. You can see this as a means of thanking the leopard for being able to cycle through their territory!
For more information on the Cape Leopard and the work of the Cape Leopard Trust, go to www.capeleopard.org.za. For more information on the Contego Wines2Whales MTB Adventure and Race contact 076 118 0874, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.wines2whales.co.za