A Leopard Dash to Safety – and Another …

Brendon’s News from Elephant Plains on the Sabi Sand Photo safari:

When we left the Lodge in the early morning dusk we first wanted to follow up on the male leopard with the duiker kill. We hoped that we would find the duiker carcass in a tree, but there were no trees that were big enough in the immediate proximity and although we searched the area quite thoroughly there was no sign of the remains. So maybe he finished the kill himself or it was snatched from him.

We drove on, checking for general game. We stopped to photograph a herd of elephants, then giraffe, zebra, many impala, and then we received a call from another ranger. He was in the vicinity where we searched for the male leopard, and also checked carefully to locate the cats’ whereabouts. He found him! And he had his duiker kill! The leopard had dragged the duiker kill much further than we thought he would to the safety of a tall Jackalberry tree, and his kill could be seen up there in the lofty branches.

When we arrived the leopard was resting on the ground under the tree, but after a while he climbed up to feed. But for some reason he was not comfortable up there, and he grabbed the kill, and returned to the ground with it, where he settled down to feed. He was clearly more comfortable and ate hungrily – not for long!

The leopard kept looking around as he ate, taking a bite, looking this way and that, then another bite, and another check. The next moment he grabbed the kill and launched himself back up into the tree. Just in time! Two hyenas dashed onto the scene, and reached the tree, only to see the tail end of the leopard reach a high branch with his kill. They danced around the base of the tree, staring up as they tried to reach up. A futile exercise! The leopard and his kill were quite safe! The two sniffed around, checked the tree again, jumped a little, and then settled down to wait for a few morsels that might drop as the leopard ate.

This afternoon we headed to the south of the reserve – and there we came across a young female leopard drinking water at a pan. She walked around, and gave us some excellent photographic opportunities.

When she disappeared into a thicket we started to drive on and photographed rhinos when we were lucky enough to receive a call about another female leopard. We shot off in that direction. We arrived to see her on the ground, but within moments she dashed up into a tree. It was twilight and as she reached the upper branches she peered down anxiously. She wouldn’t settle and looked around nervously. Then we saw what disturbed her. A pride of lions appeared at the base of the tree. She had heard them, and sought safety high up in the tree. We were able to photograph the lions, with the leopard gazing anxiously down at them and with a beautiful purplish sky behind them. We used flashes and then spotlights to make the most of the amazing scene.

Eventually we left to locate three young male lions that had been spotted earlier. We found them fairly far from where they last been seen, and enjoyed the final half hour of the day with them. It is so awe-inspiring when lions call, and when they do this right next to you, it becomes spine-chilling! Whew and wow! What a phenomenal way to end such a spectacular day!