It was early morning in December and we were on the look out for a leopard in the Kruger National Park.
December is a special time of the year in the African bush. Many animals give birth at this time as the rains bring lush grass. Many of these newborns will fall prey to the likes of lions, leopards and hyenas.
Although December is a great time of year for viewing cute baby animals and birds, it can also be difficult to find some animals. The bush is thick and difficult to see through and the abundance of water means that animals are not drawn to the rivers and watering holes.
Nonetheless, we were out and we were hopeful. We drove around slowly with three field guides searching through every gap in the vegetation. Around the corner, a car had stopped in the road. They had obviously spotted something of interest.
We pulled up alongside a beaming couple, “You missed it! There was a leopard just sitting in the road! She was completely relaxed.”
They then proceeded, much to my annoyance, to show us photographic evidence.
“You can still just see her though,” they pointed into the long grass.
With a pair of binoculars, and by tilting your head to one side whilst squinting through your left eye, you could just about make out the beautiful creature. Now I was happy! To see any leopard, albeit nearly invisible, is special. Within a few minutes she started walking parallel to the road and disappeared into the long grass. I started the car with the intention of moving forwards to see if we could find a gap in the vegetation to catch another glimpse of her.
The moment I started the car, an impala lamb sprinted out in front of us. Hot on its heels was the leopard. With one quick swipe of her paw, the tiny antelope went skidding across the road. Before it had time to get up, the leopard had gripped it in her fierce jaws. I was dumbstruck.
This all happened within five metres of my car. Whilst she killed the lamb, the leopard stared at us. The alarm from other impalas sounded loudly, warning all other animals of the recent events. I was thankful for the stabiliser on my lens as I was shaking with adrenaline.
Putting an end to the impala’s life did not take long. When it ceased to twitch, the leopard carried her meal back into the long grass and out of our view.