This evening myself, Divan and our trackers Give and Harry set out with a definite objective – to find leopard. We had already been fortunate to show our guests most other animals on the reserve but were missing the illusive one!! We split up and started in the area where a female leopard and her 2 young cubs were last seen with a view to using the light that we still had to find tracks and try to narrow down a more precise area where we could follow up after dark. We first started by explaining the tracks to our guests so that they could get involved in the challenging task ahead. The first tracks that we stumbled upon suggested that the leopards had moved north from their last position. Working as a team we followed the tracks quite far north. We of course stopped to look at lots of other animals on the way. We first smelled and then saw a big group of waterbuck (my favourite antelope!). Male and female waterbucks emit a, not unpleasant, musky smell which normally lingers at resting sites. As expected and suggested by their name, Waterbuck are often found near some form of permanent water and they make use of this water when pursued by predators, often right up to their necks! Waterbuck exhibit much less fear of crocodiles then most other antelope, although crocodiles do prey on Waterbuck. It seems as though they would rather take their chance with the crocodiles than the cats!! We also saw two impressive displays from Korhaans, the sound of their call getting louder and louder before they launch themselves 15 metres into the air and do a freefall dive back to the ground –all designed to attract the ladies! One of my guests even managed to get a great picture of the Korhaan mid flight. After stopping together for a nice sunset drink we continued on our mission. And the hard work and effort paid off – Divan found the leopards not too far from where we had tracked them. A very exciting and satisfying experience for all concerned!
Story by Sarah-Estelle Sangster, River Lodge Ranger