We've got Leopards lurking in the dark!

Leopard caught on camera in Liwiti village forest reserve

Tanzania is among the most bio-diverse countries in Africa, but the number of threatened species in the country has tripled in the last decade as a result of habitat loss. In the case of leopards, the widespread habitat loss (21% in sub-Saharan Africa in 25 years) is likely to have caused leopard declines of >30% over the last three leopard-generations (22.3 years).

Our camera traps hint at a different story in community forest reserves; on 27th November last year, at exactly 6:49pm, this leopard (the picture on left side) was caught roaming through Liwiti village forest reserve!

We believe that our programme of supporting the expansion of community-based forest management by enabling villages in south-eastern Tanzania to secure user rights and to sustainably manage their forests is helping towards the conservation of leopards in the area. African Leopards (Panthera pardus), categorised as vulnerable by the IUCN, have only limited forest reserve has contributed to preserve such vulnerable species in South-Eastern Tanzania. For instance, main driver of range loss and population decline of leopards in Africa is habitat loss. Leopards have limited levels of ecological resilience to human-caused habitat fragmentation, on account of their need for large ranges of habitat - on average 210,000ha (2,104km2), among the largest recorded for any species in the world - to hunt, mate and survive. In Africa, fortunately, most of leopards can successfully traverse disturbed habitat patches to conservation areas where they can reproduce successfully. We're working with communities in SE Tanzania to make sure that these journeys (risky for leopards and other wildlife alike) are shorter and need to take place less frequently.

We achieve this by strategically expanding CBFM to priority areas that, together, form a mosaic of connected, intact forest habitats in village forest reserves through which leopards are able to roam. The landscape in which we operate abuts Selous Game Reserve and extends down through SE Tanzania to the border to Mozambique's Niassa Nature Reserve to the South. Thus, we are helping to protect forests as important habitat linkages for wildlife travelling between these two conservation areas.

In addition to leopards, we also caught hippopotami, elephants and bushbuck on camera in 2017, and plan to install the cameras in two more village forest reserves in 2018. Stay tuned for more!