While on safari with Tim Brown Tours we located a young male leopard that had unwittingly ventured into a lion pride’s territory. Unfortunately for the leopard, he was not aware that the pride of sleeping lions had decided to have an active evening and were walking in his direction, meaning that this young leopard found himself right in the path of some ferocious looking cats.
We waited with baited breath as the lions got closer. This had become a life or death situation for the young leopard. Lions have an advantage over leopards both in length of stride and speed so if they had decided to attack, the leopard would have been in some serious trouble. Lionesses are also much larger than leopards, averaging 127kg, and would have easily been able to overpower the leopard. Competition for food is very real for predators and a lion pride would not have reacted kindly to finding a leopard encroaching on their hunting ground. As the lions approached, we watched as the leopard crouched down flat in the grass as stealthily as possible to as to avoid detection.
Leopards are notorious for avoiding conflict and protect themselves from other predators by hunting during different times of day than other predators, frequenting other areas, going after different prey and hiding in trees.
There have been many recorded instances of lions going after leopards that have encroached on their space and it is very rare that the leopard comes out the victor. When larger predators are prevalent, leopards will do what they can to avoid them and can even go as far as changing hunting habits to avoid them. They not only hide in trees but also flee into trees to avoid predation.
As the lions go closer, the leopard couldn’t hide from them any longer and it was time to make a huge leap of faith into a nearby dead tree. There was no telling whether the withered tree would hold his weight or whether he would come tumbling down and be forced to confront the lions head-on. Sadly we missed the actual leap as I had to move the vehicle to not interfere with nature and block any escape route for the leopard, but the build up and the result are good enough for me.
This lucky leopard lived to fight another day under the African sun and was happily perched up in this dead tree, safe from the lions until they eventually moved off.