As it seems that many of the folk who read my blog enjoy reading about leopards, I thought I would share a particularly interesting sighting I had a few years ago.
I was guiding out of Chitabe camp with my good friend James Weis. Our morning drive had been quiet and we were on our way back to camp when, just minutes away, James spotted some perched vultures. We investigated and found a female leopard with an impala kill stashed under a bush. It was hot, and she was resting, so we decided to return later.
When we arrived back in the late afternoon the leopard was busy moving the carcass. She dragged it through some of the thickest brush imaginable for almost 200 metres. The reason for this strenuous undertaking became clear to us when two little cubs appeared. The mother leopard was bringing them food. The cubs began to feed on the carcass, which was once again pulled under thick vegetation. We kept our distance and waited. Next morning, we found a small, open clearing in the tall grass and waited again. After feeding and sleeping under cover, the cubs followed the mother leopard out into the clearing. Here we were able to get great views of them in the open and managed to get some pictures.
Suddenly, the mother leopard changed her relaxed demeanor and slunk away, keeping low. The cubs disappeared in the same instant. A herd of impala was moving nervously through tall grass in our direction. We hardly dared to breathe. Long moments passed by without a sound. Then the impala started with alarm, and fled, except for one. The leopard had grabbed a young male. We drove around to get a view of her finishing off the unfortunate animal. Within a few minutes the impala was dead, and hidden, stored close to the original kill.
The already full-bellied leopards now had even more food. Later in the afternoon the two leopard cubs came out and climbed a tree with the full moon behind them. The mother was resting in a dead tree. Without warning she stood up and began to snarl. We looked in the direction of her gaze and saw a male leopard approaching. She slipped silently out of the tree and headed into the brush, in the direction of the male. The cubs moved to the furthest branches of the tree they were resting in, and hid. It got dark, and we left.
Next morning we headed once again to the site, eager to see what had developed in this enthralling episode of the leopards’ life. We found nothing but spoor… that was all that was left behind. No sign of the cubs, the adult female, *or* the male leopard. No sign of either one of the impala carcasses.
Sometimes you drive and search for hours, looking for interesting animals and sightings, and other times you just get lucky. This was one of those lucky times.