YouTube channel sheds light on leopards

A leopard and porcupine photographed by the Cape Leopard Trust.

A Western Cape conservation group based in Constantia has launched a YouTube channel to educate the public about leopards.

The Cape Leopard Trust (CLT) is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation.

It runs research, conservation and education projects to promote the conservation of biological diversity.

The CLT Environmental Education YouTube Channel was started during lockdown as a portal to the trust’s online “Let’s Talk Education Series” and online lessons about nature and the world leopards live in.

The trust’s Jeanie Hayward said Covid-19 had put a hold on all their normal education activities, which rely on contact with children.

“It has forced us to be creative and to start thinking beyond the norm as we know it,” Ms Hayward said.

The four episodes in the series’s first season explore the importance of environmental education among young South Africans.

Ms Hayward said the channel would look at what inspired people to pursue a career in environmental education, conservation and wildlife management; new trends in the industry; and how it could become more inclusive of those with different abilities.

The idea is that teachers and parents will have access to the lessons to help them cover curriculum topics, and activities – including ones that can be done during lockdown – are available at www.capeleopard.org.za/education/downloads.

“The pandemic and resulting lockdown has also seriously curtailed the trust’s research and conservation field activities, although all of the office-based work has been continuing as normal,” Ms Hayward said.

The trust’s environmental education department runs Leopard Kidz, an eco-club programme with curriculum-aligned lessons on various leopard-related topics.

To support the eco-club lessons, the children are taken on a camp or day trip to experience in nature what they were taught in class.

The trust also runs day trips and wilderness camps in the Cederberg and Boland mountains.

The Careers in Conservation programme looks at careers in the field and gives guidance on subject choices.

Out of this programme, the Girls in Conservation initiative was born.

It gives girls hands-on experience in conservation careers.

There is also a focus on careers in conservation for disabled pupils.

“At the end of 2019, we ran a camp specifically for disabled learners from Hermanus. We are looking at including conservation careers specifically focused on disabled learners. Some of our lessons are to be recorded in American Sign Language as a trial later this year,” Ms Hayward said.

The trust is working on a children’s book that will be available in both English and Afrikaans. There will also be audiobook and American Sign Language versions, and the printed books will be printed in dyslexic-friendly font. The project is set to launch in September.