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Discover the Cape's natural wonders

in June 2012 - Cape Leopard Trust

The Cape Leopard Trust (CLT) was launched in 2004 as a predator conservation working group in the Western Cape. It uses research as a tool for conservation, finding solutions to human wildlife conflict and inspiring interest in the environment through an environmental education programme.

Over the last few years, the programme has reached thousands of learners, students and adults through presentations, day trips to local wilderness areas and environmental camps.

The camps are based at the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve in the Cederberg and accommodate 35 participants per camp, running for two to four nights each. Last year 500 people participated in these camps and this year will see this increase to about 700 people.

The objective is for participants at the camp to learn to appreciate the rich natural environment of the Cape, free from the digital distractions and consumerist obsessions of modern ‘civilised’ life.

Much of the work done by the CLT is made possible through generous sponsorship from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF). Camp participants travel to the Cederberg in the CLT’s 21-seater bus, sponsored by the NLDTF.

Every camp has a tailor-made programme depending on the ages and needs of the group; usually they include the group taking part in a predator research activity - checking remote cameras, tracking collared caracal and leopard, or looking for kill sites as indicated by GPS clusters from the collared animals’ collars.

This adds a unique aspect to the camps and brings the participants to an understanding not only of the studied animal, but also of the challenging reality of doing research. This is an important benefit for high school learners.

Many of the participants in the CLT camps have never been in the wilderness before, and the opportunity provided to experience a different life - one with silence, wild animals, simplicity and respect - is a real benefit and has repeatedly changed peoples’ attitudes to nature, themselves and each other.

The camps in the Cederberg are the primary focus of the CLT, from February to April and September to December, during the summer months. In the winter season the CLT is concerned largely with Cape Town public awareness campaigns.

One aspect of these campaigns is presentations in schools and associations, the research of the CLT, human-wildlife conflict and other mammals of the Western Cape.

Another is to take groups on day trips into the mountainous areas in the Boland and around the Peninsula. These trips are themed, with topics ranging from fauna to flora and geology to history, always incorporating a combination of learning and physical activity.

The CLT seeks to reawaken our primal selves through their education programmes. Some questions raised through the CLT’s activities include: “Are we aware of what is really happening in the world around us?” “Do we understand how we fit into this unique system of life?” “What information is pertinent to the survival of this system?” In helping
groups gain a better understanding, the CLT tries to invoke a sense of scale and time through experiences of astronomy, geology and rock art.

As well as covering important environmental issues like saving water, using energy wisely, recycling, not littering, and being aware of how one’s actions may affect other living things, the CLT focuses on the direct experience of life’s beauty and complexity. Through the realisation of the sheer wonder and intelligence in every living thing, a child’s mind and actions are changed forever.

In its educational approach the CLT concentrates on the reconnection process. This is often achieved through art exercises designed to encourage participants to truly observe what they see around them and to notice the details. The joy of exploration and adventure, the falling away of fear as it is replaced by curiosity - these are moments that inspire. Allowing children to realize their place in the natural world is one of the greatest gifts that anyone can give to the next generation.

To participate in this education programme email or visit the website on www.capeleopard.org.za for more information.

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