the opportunist

Life in the African bush can be a tough place, with the “survival of the fittest” being the mantra. In my opinion, there is a second part to this statement which is just as important, “and the opportunist will prosper”. No other animal epitomises this better than the leopard.

leopard drinking while on safari at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

A male leopard known as Sandriver is a great example of this as he was left blind in his right eye as a result of a clash with another leopard a while back. He is a great warthog hunter, and will happily wait above a warthog burrow in a termite mound for hours until his prey decides to leave. Leopards generally eat small to medium sized antelopes but depending on circumstances will make use of up to 92 different food sources from winged termites through to baby buffalo.

sandriver leopard at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

Sandriver showed us his opportunistic instinct the other night while walking casually down the road when two adult Egyptian geese with their 4 juvenile chicks crossed his path. As they were walking across the road at an angle, they didn’t see him less than 10 meters behind them. Straight away he froze, not wanting to give away his position and to evaluate his next move. He didn’t take long – an explosion of speed followed by a pounce. The neck of a juvenile had been broken. One would not be enough as he subsequently killed a second and then a third in less than 15 seconds with quiet efficiency. The only thing that broke the silence on this balmy night was the distress calls of the adult geese.

leopard while on safari at Sabi Sabi

My guests, this being the first night of their stay at Earth Lodge, were in awe of this cat and we sat patiently with him as he finished the first and then the second of his evening plunder. All the while the adult Egyptian geese called into the night for their three missing offspring. In an instant, something came over this leopard and he got up and walked briskly to the dam – we lost him! After a few minutes we found him nestled in the grass totally fixated on what lay in front of him on the water’s edge. You guessed it – the noisy adult geese and their last remaining offspring. He launched into an attack and bounded into the water. The geese, despite being surprised by the feline, narrowly escaped into deeper water.

sandriver leopard at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

I would love to know what was going through this killing machine’s head when deciding to go for the fourth goose. Was he driven by hunger or was he annoyed by the noise made by the geese? I would probably think it was the latter but although he had another goose left to eat, I believe he was going to take full advantage of the situation. This cunning awareness makes this killer one of the greatest opportunists because of his adaptability to his environment and the prey that lives in it.



  1. marie mull says

    What a story. I just love the big cats. Although I feel sorry for the geese, Sanddriver has a hard life too. His losing an eye made me sad.
    Beautiful photos. Thankks for sharing.

  2. frank says

    I have photos of this leopard when we visited Selati in September 2011. Great to hear that he is still around. Hope to see him when we come again in September this year.

  3. ana mcghie says

    Thank you for the beautiful photos, we love Leopards, they are such amazing’s and beautiful big cats.
    Thank you for sharing the photos

  4. frik steinberg says

    Awsome !! Great to hear the LEGEND is still doing good, still the master survivor at Sabi Sabi as always . Great pictures & story , keep it up.

  5. gill maskell says

    I took many photos of this lovely Leopard in March Last year when I was in the Sabi sands for a week. He is a beautiful boy

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