Pilot Johan Ferreira is in his element -- he has found a way to combine his love for flying with a passion for nature by helping to track the elusive leopards that roam the mountain wilderness some 250 km (150 miles) north of Cape Town. Ferreira is a member of the Bateleurs, a South African group of 124 pilots who volunteer their time and aircraft to provide a free aerial view of environmental problems for policy-makers, conservationists and students among many others.
The group has flown a wide range of missions, from mapping the spread of invasive alien vegetation to transporting endangered species and photographing illegal dumping and development.
"Nature is the most important thing," Ferreira
, who owns an organic rooibos or red-bush herbal tea farm and processing plant near the town of Clanwilliam, spent 15 years flying crop dusters before turning to farming in 1995. He
devotion to flying as "a kind of madness" and is happy to be able to indulge it by helping the trust with its conservation work.
In 30 minutes, his
aircraft can cover as much territory as a fit hiker could manage in three days over the rugged terrain, where peaks rise about 2,000 metres above the surrounding plains.
has been incredible," Martins said in tribute to the pilot.