Elusive Leopards. One of Big 5.

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A world without leopards, well, who would want to live in it? Diana Vreeland

 

Once again I have delved into my photographic archives to publish some new images for what could be the last Monday of a Level 5 lockdown state. By the end of this week (30/04/2020) we should be downgraded to Level 4, but I, like many other South Africans wait for that news with bated breath. In the meantime, enjoy some of my favourite leopard images and stories.

 

This is one of the biggest male leopards I have ever seen and it was IN the grounds of a game lodge that I was staying in! My wife and I were ensconced in the lounge having some downtime between breakfast and lunch when this interaction happened. I was busy writing and my wife was reading her book when she suddenly shouted out “LEOPARD”…as I was not facing in the same direction, my immediate response was to say something condescending until I looked in the direction she was pointing in. And lo and behold, this fellow was walking through the property. The GM of the Lodge said that he was a regular visitor and the three of us were able to follow(at a distance) as it ambled through the bare area, past the swimming pool, through the hide and eventually left the property to have a drink at a nearby waterhole.

 

On the way back to a lodge from an evening game drive, we came across this sighting. In the fading light, we watched as one life lost was able to sustain another. This young leopard was being very protective of the carcass and we kept a respectful distance as she relaxed and started to eat.

 

One of my all-time favourite leopard images. It was probably taken in the Sabi Sands, but I cannot be certain.

 

This youngster was keeping an eye on me, while I kept my lens trained on it.

 

From early morning in Thornybush. We actually found this particular animal at the end of an evening game drive. However, as the light was fading and the fact that we had to get back to camp our guide promised us that it would be in the same tree in the morning (it had a duiker kill in one of the nearby branches) and lo and behold, it was.

 

Time to nap…almost. Even though the eyes were at ‘half-mast’ this particular animal, like all cats, was alert to what was going on around it.

 

Some years ago, I spent time embedded with some guides doing leopard research. Part of what was required was to collect scat samples…not a pleasant experience…and while we were about to get out of the vehicle to collect some fresh samples, we noticed this female watching us with intent. Needless to say that there were almost a pile of human scat samples produced IN the vehicle.

 

I am ready for my close up. Is this my good side? The soft morning light adds to the almost ethereal beauty of this female.

 

A full tummy for this cub that we found with its mom during a game drive in Mashatu.

 

I was unaware that leopards were coprophagic, but this one did not seem to be too enamoured with the dung that it was tasting.

 

Standing in the late afternoon sunlight, this male looks off into the distance, trying to ignore the fact that we had been following him for a while.

 

Lit by the morning sunlight, this leopard was on a mission…

 

I was able to spend about an hour with this youngster as she went about her afternoon ablutions and then settled down for a long drink.

 

Striding towards me with purpose. A face that bears witness to a LOT of experiences and interactions.

 

 

 

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