Urban jungle: does a leopard roam the neat lawns of Wylie Park?

2014-08-27 00:00

IS there a leopard prowling around Wylie Park?

That’s the question that’s been niggling at the mind of Pietermaritzburg resident Clyde Langley.

Langley was taking a stroll in the park with his wife Trudy recently when they came across what he believes to be ­leopard droppings in the pathway across the stream.

“The spot where we saw the droppings was no more than 150 metres from Taunton Road. On closer examination I was convinced that it could be leopard. I took close-up pictures of the droppings. When I arrived home, I Googled leopard faeces and to my dismay the Google pictures were unbelievably alike.”

Langley said the Wylie Park droppings contained a “conical shaped assembly of matter that appears to be vegetable [grass]”. He found “similar objects” in the pictures from the Internet.

“Should someone repudiate my claim that it is leopard faeces, then they should present an alternative possibility. It cannot be a domestic animal, nor human nor herbivore. So what is it — except leopard?”

Langley said a friend who was a game hunter, and who had lived in Highlevel Road, Oak Park, had found leopard footprints, less than 80 metres from his boundary fence in the forest where he sometimes wandered. He added that there was folklore and urban legend about leopards living around the city.

He said the Wylie Park dung was “too bulky” to be serval or lynx.

Langley said he wondered if Ronald Stimpson, who disappeared in the forests around Ferncliffe in 2006, had perhaps fallen prey to a leopard. Stimpson (79) va­nished while walking his dogs in the Ferncliffe nature reserve. Stimpson’s close friend and attorney Brendan Cul­linan obtained a high court order declaring him presumed dead in 2009.

• Do you have an informed opinion on what animal the droppings belong to?

E-mail newsed@witness.co.za

JEANNIE Hayward and Anita Meyer, researchers and co-ordinators of the Cape Leopard Trust’s Boland Project, told The Witness they believe the droppings are not those of a leopard.

“We are quite certain that it is indeed baboon scat, based on the size, colour and content of seeds, pips and fibrous plant matter (although it doesn’t have the typical cylindrical cone-shape, but we often come across flattened baboon scat that does not have this typical shape). This was corroborated by two baboon researchers from the University of Cape Town.”

They said “leopard scat is elongated, sausage-like segmented droppings that tapers at the back end, and contains a lot of meat, a lot of bone fragments, hair and other remains like hooves, claws and sometimes teeth”.

They added that there are a lot of “mislabelled, misidentified photos of leopard scat and spoor on the Internet” and said they would be happy to provide photos.

They said they awaited feedback on the distribution of baboons in the area in question.

Local wildlife expert Mark Enslin said there were no baboons in the area, but he believed the dung was definitely not that of a leopard. He thought it could be “some kind of a monkey”.

Enslin was reminded of the American coatimundi (or coati) which was spotted in Blackridge and Hilton in 2010. Enslin was quoted in The Witness at the time saying the animal was most likely brought into the country illegally.

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