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13. The Leopard

Leopards, though fairly common in many parts of Asia and Africa, are particularly elusive. Until recently, even after living in India for the better part of a year and now in Africa for months, I had only briefly seen part of a leopard tail. Then, on our recent trip to northern Kruger, we got some looks that far exceeded any reasonable expectations.

In the early afternoon we entered through the Punda Maria gate near the Zimbabwe border, and within ten minutes, we caught our best look ever. Here's one of the few photos I got.


Then, later in the afternoon we set out for a game drive past the same area where we'd seen the leopard earlier.

Amazingly, it was now on the move and seemed to be interested in crossing the road. The beginning of this next video clip includes what I usually edit out — frantic footage as the driver tries to get into good viewing position and I turn on the camera and try to find a "window" between heads, car door frames, windows, etc. in order to get video footage.

wait for it . . .

The leopard continued to move back and forth, apparently looking for a place to cross the road.

This next clip gives a sense of how close the leopard was to our car.

And even though we got better footage than this next sequence, I like it because it shows the way leopards typically try to stay behind cover. If this was the only clip I got, I would be super-psyched!

Finally, the leopard found a place to cross the road.

Again, you can see how close the leopard was to our car, and, how tricky it can be to find a "window" for filming.

Finally, the leopard found a place to relax on the side of a termite mound.

But, suddenly the leopard appeared interested in something — note the position of the back and ears, and, the twitching of the tail . . .

Here, the leopard appears to be rolling and playing — or perhaps hiding scent or covering in dust for the hunt? — but then quickly goes into stalking mode.

In this clip, the leopard is clearly stalking, then stops at a tree, using it for cover.

What followed was a rapid run in a burst of dust. Unfortunately, my view was largely blocked and I didn't get "the kill" on video.

I did, however, catch this footage of the dying squirrel in the leopard's mouth.

Then, the leopard moved on and climbed a tree to eat in peace beyond our gaze.