Showing your kid where its food comes from

This post is part of  Kalahari  Series II – 2011. The previous post in the series is The Long Road North – Upington. Also see Kalahari Series I – 2009.

Date: 11 August 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 . . .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The young leopard gets more interested and starts to move down the slope.

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The mother leopard stays put, appearing to be totally disinterested.

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By now the young leopard is sitting a little way down the slope staring intently at the two Gemsbok.

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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.

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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.

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The two Gemsbok move into a defensive pattern.

©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

The mother leopard now starts scanning around as if she’s trying to determine the best route across the valley.

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©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

And then she’s moving down the ridge towards the road . . .

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. . . With the young leopard not far behind.

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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:

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Categories: Nature/Environment

Author:lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)

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33 Comments on “Showing your kid where its food comes from”

  1. September 5, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Really Nice photos!

  2. September 5, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    wow what amazing images!

  3. Sarita Botha
    September 5, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Thanks for this story. Well told and the pictures are really nice.

    • September 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

      Thank you, Sarita! There will be more “special sightings” posts in this Kalahari series.

  4. September 5, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Wow – that must have been amazing to witness in person.

    • September 5, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

      It was fascinating, Laura. Watching the big cats I can see the same mannerisms and behaviour as my cat at home.

  5. singledplantlight
    September 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Oh,dear, as a vegetarian, I am sad to see something like this…

    • September 5, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

      Unfortunately, cats (wild or domestic ones) don’t have a choice – they are genetically programmed to eat meat and can’t survive without it. However, you can take comfort in the fact that they only kill what they need.

  6. September 5, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    How amazing! The photos are incredible. I can’t even image how it must feel to see these amazing animals in person—————-
    Really wonderful post, Lisa!
    Kathy

    • September 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      Thanks Kathy! We don’t have a zoom lens, so the photos weren’t as good as we would like, but I thought it a story worth telling.

  7. September 5, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    What an amazing photo story! Thank you for your front seat view.
    Sidenote: Sadly my husband had to sell off our cows as with this drought the pastures cannot sustain the herd. After we saw two perish like in your first image, he and his partner knew what they had to do. Funny, with tropical storm Lee just to the right of us… wind, wind, wind…electricity going out and still no rain.

    • September 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

      I am glad you enjoyed the post Georgette!

      Sorry to hear about your cows. Where in the US do you live? The animal in the photograph was probably killed by predators – these animals are very adapted to the dry Kalahari conditions.

      • September 5, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

        We live in southeast TX. The two cows that my husband and his partner found, weakened by little water and grazing land fell victims to coyotes they think.

      • September 6, 2011 at 6:07 am #

        I always thought that it was the western side of Texas which was so dry?

  8. September 5, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Brilliant capture of animal behaviour – it’s always so special to see leopard. Lovely post Lisa!

    • September 5, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      Thanks! We were very lucky and had a number of interesting leopard sightings on this Kalahari trip.

  9. jacquelincangro
    September 5, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    Wow! It’s like an episode of Wild Kingdom unfolding before your very eyes. Amazing photos. Willie must have a fantastic telephoto lens and a quick trigger finger.

    Unrelated note: I love the comic strip Mutts which is penned by Patrick McConnell, an avid animal lover. I saw this strip recently and thought of you!
    http://muttscomics.com/strip.aspx?m=08&d=10&y=11

    • September 6, 2011 at 6:06 am #

      Thanks for the compliments! 😉 Willie doesn’t have a telephoto lens, but he wishes he did have. Later in this Kalahari series I’ll be featuring some photos of sightings we had which were taken with a zoom lens – the photographer kindly shared them with me.

      Loved the comic strip! Thanks for sharing it.

  10. September 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Wow. What an incredible sighting. So cool how one of you photographed the leopards and the other the gemsbok. Pretty great pics considering the lens isn’t telephoto. Did he crop the photos to get the closeups? What kind of lens is it?

    • September 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      Thanks Heather! It was an amazing sighting. We were very lucky to see several good sightings of leopard, where they were doing something and not just lying in the grass or up in a tree.

      The camera Willie was using was a Canon Powershot SX10 which has a zoom lens ranging from 28 to 560mm i.e. a 20x zoom. But it’s NOT a DSLR, so the image quality isn’t as good when you do zoom in. Out of the photos in this post, only the second last one is cropped – because there was too much grass and too little leopard.

  11. September 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    What a fantastic coincidence – you stop to photograph an interesting looking skull in the veld, look up to see two gemsbok standing in the shade under a tree, and then manage to see two leopards in the grass!!

    I mean, that is just sooo lucky!

    And I’m guessing that someone is going to ask Father Christmas for a proper telephoto zoom lens this year. After all, there’s a lot of wildlife waiting to be photographed… 😉

    • September 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

      Yes, it was an extremely lucky coincidence. Which I think is what most animal sightings in the Kalahari are. Also it’s good to take somebody who is a good game spotter (like Willie)!

      Friends of ours were also in the Kalahari in August and one of the guys had a DSLR with a zoom lens. He took some amazing photos, which he’s letting me use on my blog. It’s not what equipment you have, but who you know! 😉 At some stage though we’ll have to upgrade to a DSLR with a good lens.

      • September 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

        Oooh, Lisa, I hope you do!

        You’re already taking such fantastic photos, I think it will be well worthwhile. I don’t regret investing in a DSLR at all (though the cost does hurt the pocket). It’s allowed me to capture shots I simply would not have gotten with a compact, and I have learned so much about photography — or rather, I have realised how much I can still learn!

        I’d recommend getting one good wide-angle lens and one reasonably good zoom lens for the beginning (that’s the problem with DSLRs – you need to swap lenses – unlike a compact, you can’t go from wide angle to massive zoom with one lens).

        If you want to specialise in particular types of photography (wildlife or action or portrait or macro), ask around, get advice, do some research, even rent a lens for a specific photo shoot or event… before you buy. 🙂

  12. Lu
    September 8, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    How fantastic to get the opportunity to watch all this wonderful animal interaction! And leopards too… two, too… utterly green with envy!

    • September 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

      I remember you said you like leopards. We had several really good sightings, so stay tuned for some more stories and (some better) photos.

  13. September 8, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    Oh Lisa – your photos are superb and your description made me feel as if I were there watching it all with you, thank you so much! It brought back so many memories of moments with Leopards when I was a child in Zambia.They are the most magnificent creatures (but then again, so are Gemsbok) but my abiding childhood memory is of how they particularly liked dog; as a result everyone with any sense kept their dogs shut up inside during the night.

    • September 8, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

      I am glad that you enjoyed the post – thanks for reading it and leaving a comment! I used to live on a forestry station where the leopards caught especially the domestic cats, so I know how difficult it is to keep pets with them around.

  14. September 10, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    You built up the suspense quite nicely, Lisa!

    Great job on the story-board. Can I hope to see more of the same in future? 😉

    • September 10, 2011 at 8:26 am #

      Thanks Riekie! Willie helped with finding the right photos for the story. Yes – you’ll definitely be seeing more “special sightings” posts in the near future.

  15. September 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    very nice pics!!

    • September 19, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

      Thank you! And thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. 🙂

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