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Dramatic helicopter dash to release Brandy the Magaliesberg Leopard back into the wild

Oct 8, 2014
Category: Press Release

Brandy, a pregnant leopard that was illegally snared in the Magaliesberg two weeks ago, has been successfully released back into the wild.  Throughout her capture and treatment, the team involved has been determined to give her and the three cubs she is carrying the best possible chance of survival in the wild.

It took the combined effort of the following organisations and sponsors to carry out this remarkable feat:

  • John Power, Directorate:  Biodiversity Management, North West Provincial Government
  • Dr Paul Bartels, Veterinarian:  Department Nature Conservation, Tshwane University of Technology
  • WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa)
  • Drs Katja Koeppel and Francois Le Grange, veterinarians:  Johannesburg Zoological Gardens
  • Tokkie Botes:  Helicopter owner and pilot
  • Frank Molteno:  Helicopter pilot
  • Bob Boden provided emergency communications between the field team and the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens.

The saga started two weeks ago when John Power reported that Brandy had been severely injured in a snare in the Magaliesberg and requested Dr Paul Bartels to assist in her capture and treatment. Dr Bartels confirmed that Brandy required urgent veterinary treatment and the leopard was then airlifted to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital’s helipad from where Johannesburg Zoo veterinary personnel collected her.

Drs Koeppel and Le Grange from Johannesburg Zoo then treated Brandy’s injuries which were close to her abdomen and could pose a big risk to a successful pregnancy. 

The leopard was recently pronounced ready for release back into the wild.   On Sunday the operation literally took-off – with military precision – when Power, Molteno and Drs Bartels and Le Grange airlifted Brandy from Johannesburg and flew her to her new release site in the North West Province.

Brandy was fitted with a satellite collar and will be monitored by Power.  It is uncertain how the stress of being snared and injured will affect her pregnancy, but the team felt that it was important to get her back into the wild as soon as her wounds had sufficiently healed so that she would have the best possible chance of survival. Based on the data from the satellite collar, she currently appears to be looking for a denning site.

A programme which aims to rid the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve of snares has been launched by WESSA and the Tshwane University of Technology, and will be put into action from Monday 13 October.  WESSA is also involved in the Gouritz Biosphere and potentially the first UNESCO approved Biosphere Reserve in KZN.




Images and captions:

Image 1
Dr Bartels waiting for Brandy to start waking up (Photo:  P Bartels)

Image 2
Powers and Dr's Bartels and La Grange unload brandy from the chopper (Photo: P Bartels)

Image 3
Brandy walks free2. Notice healed snare wound (Photo: P Bartels)


For more information please contact:

John Wesson - Corporate and Membership Development Manager & Conservation Specialist
Email: | Cell:  083 444 7649