Written by: Flo Montgomery
Watch this amazing film taken in 2012 by Bobby Jewell, a guest at Adventure Camps, who was only 11-years-old at the time. The short video is of a leopard nicknamed ‘Fundi’, which means mechanic. He is a beautiful leopard that was born around 2010 with an undying curiosity about everything, from the staff quarters at Mdonya Old River Camp in Ruaha National Park, to the safari vehicles and their occupants. From the start, he showed an amazing curiosity and teenager-like playfulness, and often comes very close to take a sneak peek at the guests.
Fundi is regularly seen around the Mdonya riverbed area, which is some 10-minutes from camp. Sometimes he is also spotted on the outskirts of the camp, and on one fine occasion, he was even seen up on the bonnet of one of the open safari vehicles, as can be seen in this film.
The guests, the guide, Zachariah Kahimba, and the driver, Ayoub Nyan’gango, were surprised when Fundi wandered up alongside the vehicle and climbed up onto the bumper bar, gave it a lick and then settled himself upon the bonnet to peruse the inhabitants of the car through the windscreen. He only left when he happened to put his weight on part of the bonnet that popped and startled him just enough to make him descend.
The close proximity with which he approached the vehicle and guests is exceptional, as leopards are near the bottom of the big cat hierarchy. They are known to be very solitary creatures that shy away from most onlookers.
And this was not the last time that he ever jumped upon the bonnet of a car; other safari cars also reported similarly strange behaviour from Fundi. In another incident on a late evening sunset drive along the Old Mdonya River bed, Fundi was seen half hidden in some foliage by the side of the road. The news of the sighting reached camp and another car went out to view the renowned celebrity. As they approached the other vehicle and tried to manoeuvre themselves closer to get a better view, suddenly they punctured a tyre on an acacia thorn. Pensive and silent, they sat with their cameras at the ready while the guide knew that the sound of the released air pressure from the tyre would trigger a reaction from Fundi.
With the sound of the escaping air, Fundi stood to attention and started to move towards the punctured tyre and placed his face against it to have a sniff. His curiosity at its peak, he proceeded to touch and lightly paw at the tire before deciding there was nothing he could do to assist. He left the scene casually.
It’s believed that Fundi and a sister leopard cub were orphaned somewhere in the area when very young. The sister has had her own litters since then, but Fundi, being a male leopard, is solitary.
He has been sighted many times in the early mornings and evenings – killing an impala right alongside Tent No.1 and giving one lucky guest, up for an early morning game drive, a fabulous up close and personal viewing of the kill. He then made himself comfortable on the unoccupied veranda of Tent No. 2 the following night, where he took the chance to relax and lick his paws.
Fundi is an awesome and very unusual wild friend to have around. And he is appreciated by everyone, especially the Maasai attendants who love to look out for him and to be the first to spot him. Only the resident impalas aren’t fans of his, but they tend to stick around nonetheless and help out in giving advance notice of his arrival with their alarm calls.