Date: 11 September 2011 – Approximately 09:3o
Place: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. On a game drive on the Twee Riverien – Mata Mata road north of Urikaruus (see map). On the left side of the road, a fairly steep ridge and on the right side the wide, dry Auob River bed with another ridge rising behind it.
Often great animal sightings start with something like this . . .
We spot this skull in the veld in the Auob riverbed, and stop to take photographs. Then zoom out to include a pair of Gemsbok standing quietly under a big thorn tree.
The Gemsbok look alert but not unnecessarily agitated. Willie starts scanning the opposite ridge, and spots the characteristic silhouette of rounded ears against the sky that immediately makes him realize that there is a big cat on the ridge. Two leopards in fact.
The first sighting of the two leopards is not very clear. They’re a long way off and half hidden by the long grass. One of the leopards sits up and we realize that it is a youngster, the bigger leopard its mother. It has spotted the Gemsbok on the other side of the valley.
The young leopard gets more interested and starts to move down the slope.
The mother leopard stays put, appearing to be totally disinterested.
By now the young leopard is sitting a little way down the slope staring intently at the two Gemsbok.
The Gemsbok are now fully aware of the two leopards and start to get nervous. First they move away from the thorn tree out into the open, and then stop to look around.
The young leopard rushes back to its mother, obviously very excited about its “find”. Whatever it communicates to her, she’s now also interested and sits up to take a look.
The two Gemsbok move into a defensive pattern.
The mother leopard now starts scanning around as if she’s trying to determine the best route across the valley.
And then she’s moving down the ridge towards the road . . .
. . . With the young leopard not far behind.
From here we watch them cross the road quickly and disappear into the high grass and bush on the other side. We catch the odd glimpse of the two leopards as they move rapidly over the river bed towards the other ridge, and then lose sight of them.
In retrospect this was probably not a “real” hunt. Gemsbok are very big buck (between 210 – 240 kgs), as opposed to the Red Hartebeest (approximately 105 – 180 kgs) and Springbok (approximately 30 -48 kgs) which leopards are known to hunt. Also these leopards had lost the element of surprise – leopards are known to use stealth and cover in approaching their prey. So this seemed more like a training exercise. Something one sees when watching the games domestic cats play. Or how a mother cat will drop a live mouse near her kittens and let them catch it again.
It was nevertheless a wonderful sighting. I took a couple of photographs of the Gemsbok – which I was closer to – with my little compact camera, but spent most of the time watching the action with binoculars. This meant I had a really good view of the two leopards. Every facial expression, every twitch of a tail.
The Kalahari 2011 Series:
- An oasis in the desert
- Take your camera to the bathroom (and other Kalahari safari tips)
- The long road North – Southern Cape to Upington
- The Long Road North – Upington
- Showing your kid where its food comes from (this post)
- Fierce Creatures
- Gemsbok Graphics
- The Long Road North – Upington to Twee Rivieren and beyond
- Campfire story: The Last Outpost
- Slip-Slap-Slop-Slide and other Bush Beauty Tips
- Hey Mom . . . wait for me!
- A tough customer
- Frenzy at the “water hole” – includes the movie
- The Camp Cat