nature can never be predicted

It was an evening safari, and the second time in the space of a few weeks that a young female leopard was found mating with the male that killed her cub in front of my vehicle. For two days the two leopards had been together and the mating marathon was coming to an end. Ranger Brett was in charge of the sighting when I made my approach.

As we arrived, the leopards were in the process of mating for what was to be the final time, for on completion of the act the male began to move off. After the female had come back to her senses and stopped her post-coital rolling in the grass, she quickly began to look where her temporary partner had disappeared to! She managed to find him resting in the grass and began her incessant sexual courtship to lure the male out of his stupor! His hissing and eventual explosive growl was more than enough to convince us (but not her!) that his feelings had changed!

leopards mating

He started to move off at a pace and we quickly lost him in the grass, but he was followed by the female! At this point Brett decided to leave the sighting and I was left to relocate the leopards. We managed to find the male who was obviously satisfied that he'd successfully managed to give the female the slip, and he had stopped to admire some impala close by. We turned off our lights (a process used on night safaris to ensure that our presence has no negative affect on the natural environment, thus giving both predator and prey a fair chance).

We positioned the Land Rover with the male leopard to our right and the impala out in front, their silhouettes visible in the fading light. We sat in silence for close to 20 minutes, periodically checking the location of the male (which never changed), and the impala who were skittish but not moving off.

Suddenly the silence changed to explosive barks of panic and the rumble of escaping hooves! I could just make out the shapes of impala scattering in all directions with some heading toward our position. It was the female doing the chasing. She had singled out her prey and was focussed on not letting it out of her sight. Years of instinct and practice in survival ensured that she yet again made a successful kill. We watched as she quickly claimed the impala as her own!

We stayed with her, expecting her to drag the kill to a safer position or up into a tree. She did neither! She quickly ate some of the rump then lost interest, sniffing the surrounding area, no doubt turning her attention back to the location of her lover-boy! Eventually she trotted off in the direction of his scent, leaving the impala completely unguarded and exposed! At this point we decided to leave her on her quest and head back to our lodge for dinner, after an unforgettable night!

This was a great reminder for me that nature can never be predicted, there is always an element of the unknown. The animals are wild and laws only unto themselves, leaving us to stay humble observers in their still very secret world!

by: kg - bush lodge ranger

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