sabi sabi ranger stories
a learning curve
I was on an afternoon safari looking for a hippo, when my tracker looked back at me with a very pleased look on his face and asked if I could see anything. After a quick scan of the area, I picked up the familiar silhouette of a leopard trying to be inconspicuous on top of a termite mound.
It was a young female that had recently moved into and set up territory in the area.
She started to move and we decided to follow her as it became clear that she was hunting. She had been mating with a huge male a few days before and was now hungry. We followed at a discrete distance and a few minutes later she spotted a female Grey Duiker - the stalk was on.
The leopard, after carefully positioning herself, pounced on the Duiker and, as so often happens to young leopards, she missed.
We then decided to leave to go and have a sundowner, when she suddenly streaked past my landrover and caught a very young Duiker lamb that had been hiding in the thicket. She dragged the lamb out into the open where she let it go! She then proceeded to catch and release the poor lamb, practicing her stalking skills and exercising those muscles used in a hunt. Eventually the lamb stopped trying to run away which completely stumped the leopard who was used to having things run away from her. The lamb then started to play with the leopard and for 2 hours they kept us entertained with their games like 'catch' and 'leap frog'. As it started to get dark, the leopard's true nature started showing through and she finally killed the lamb and started feeding.
It was obvious that the leopard was taken aback by the Duiker's lack of fear - after all, the kills her mother used to bring her were either dead or so terrified they ran at the first opportunity to do so. The lesson I learned was that although these animals are born with the instinct to be predator or prey, their actual nature is one learned through exposure.