Editor's note

For this edition Marlies Craig, Pat McKrill and Steve Woodhall were given the somewhat challenging brief to write about the “senses” of their species and again they have produced some interesting and even amazing information! Did you know butterflies can hear and some may even be able to make sounds do distract predators? Peter Spence looked into how some birds names are derived and that also makes some interesting reading!

Our Eco-impi articles are aimed at highlighting the work that some individuals have done to improve our local environment and this edition’s interview is with Tristan Dickerson who has achieved international acclaim for his work on fake furs to help save leopard’s from extinction. We are fortunate that Tristan has now settled in the Upper Highway and is helping to make a difference locally. He has a determined approach to conservation and his “just one idea” approach has already borne fruit and inspired others!

Tim and Helen McClurg have contributed an informative article with stunning photographs on the nesting of Violet-backed Starlings at their ex-home on the edge of Krantzkloof Nature Reserve where they patiently observed and recorded a pair of starlings nesting in a fencepost!

Arend Hoogervorst is well known for his opinion columns which act as a “conscience prick” for most of us but in this edition, he has also written an informative article to help us understand the rather complex issue of ecosystem services. This term is of fundamental importance in discussions on evaluating environmental programmes.

Robin Lamplough’s article on the link between history and nature in this issue features a woman for the first time! History has not been very kind nor fair to women in a male dominated world so hopefully we will see more articles of women who have made a difference to the environment in years gone by.

I am very pleased to be able to include an article by PhD candidate Céline Hanzen on her Eel research. Céline has been scouring our rivers for eels with some success in some areas but paltry results in others. In this article she shares some valuable insights into the amazing lives of these mysterious creatures! As a conservancy we are very keen to assist researchers with their work by providing logistics support, local knowledge and information and where possible funding.

In this edition we are privileged to include a contribution from the United Kingdom as a result of our partnership with the University of Cambridge on Phase 2 of the Aller River Pilot Project. As a local conservancy it has been very exciting to have an international link in this award winning project and to understand that our problems are not unique. The Skype interchanges between young people in Clermont and youngsters on the Norfolk Broads was a dream come true and very inspiring for all involved. Dr Elsa Lee has been invaluable in this process and it is enlightening to have her feedback and that of Dr David Whitley and Nick Sanderson.

This edition includes the last contribution from Peter Spence who has been a stalwart of The Leopard’s Echo since the January 2016 Edition. I am not sure if our readers appreciate the efforts that the authors go through to prepare their articles. As Editor I give them a brief which I hope will provide interest to our readers but which will usually means significant research to get facts and photographs. During the past 3 years (seven editions including this current one) Peter has enlightened us on the types of nests birds make, which birds are our our most visible local species, which birds eat other birds, what they feed on, how they use colour and most recently he explained the various beak shapes and their purpose. I hope that you have enjoyed his somewhat wry but entreating style. As Editor I also need to keep an eye on style and the balance between readability and scientific accuracy and Peter has always hit the mark as with his description of the call of the Dark-backed Weaver when he described it as “which has a call resembling a squeaky gate” – maybe that was his engineering training showing through!

Enjoy the read and as always, we would love your feedback.

Paolo Candotti