Hello my name is Garry. I am a ranger at Kapama Southern Camp and I am an addict. I am addicted to leopard, but I have been clean for three days now. I really want to quit, I do, but I can’t do it alone. I need help.
Everyone has their own vices; mine is just a little different. I need a regular leopard fix. Luckily, I had one just a few days ago, and so did the guests who were with me. Often, leopard sightings are fleeting, but they are always worth it. This time was no different. Just a glimpse, but it was enough.
These fascinating cats are aware of my affliction – I am sure of it – and they tempt and tease me on every game drive, with their perfect paw prints clearly visible on the sand roads on which we drive. It’s almost as if they are sending me the message that they are around, but I need to earn even the briefest glimpse of them. These short moments of sightings just exacerbate my problem, and so my thirst for seeing leopard is never ever satisfied.
This time was different. The morning was a cold one, with the frontal system from the Cape dropping temperatures very low. We had been searching for elephants that seemed to be hiding in the thick bush to escape the cold weather. With no luck seeing them, my tracker, Richard Silinda, and I decided to move to Plan B, which was a stop for hot coffee to warm up.
As I turned off the road and headed towards one of my favourite rest stops, something flashed past the corner of my eye. Instinctively I thought it was a lioness, so I turned onto the road towards her. We all scanned the area where she had crossed but there was no lioness in sight. Then, in an open area and lit by the golden glow of morning sunshine, sat a large male leopard staring right back at us.
Richard glanced back at me and smiled as he said: “Ingwe”, which means leopard in the Shangaan language. But the guests on board had already spotted the magnificent big cat and were frantically searching for their cameras – coffee was long forgotten. For just a few short moments, he stared back at us and then calmly walked back into the bush.
I can only speak for myself, but I am sure all of us felt intoxicated by the beauty of this elusive animal. I shifted the Landcruiser into low range and began to follow him slowly. We are only permitted to leave the track for high-profile species, so we followed him for about 20 minutes – taking care not to get to close or to drive directly behind him. This was a truly exceptional experience, as the leopard was completely relaxed and so showed us a little of his world for a few special minutes.
Written by: Garry Bruce, Ranger at Kapama Southern Camp
Edited by Keri Harvey
One morning my guests asked to leave half an hour earlier so we left at 06:30am. After driving for about 30 minutes we found some fresh rhino tracks and decided to follow them. After following for a while, we found lion tracks on top of the fresh rhino tracks – the lions were close.
Tracking for only 10 minutes, we found the lions. They were stalking some kudu by the looks of things. As the lions started running, we tried to follow. As we were driving through the bush, I heard what sounded like two cats fighting so we rushed over to see what was happening.
My tracker turned around and shouted “LEOPARD LEOPARD” and we saw the leopard in a tree with the three female lionesses anxiously waiting below it. Suddenly, the leopard jumps out of the tree with hopes to get away but instead had to face the three aggressive lionesses. After a while, the leopard decided to run as fast as her legs could carry her and get away, otherwise she would certainly lose her life.
Unfortunately, the leopard was too slow and one of the lions grabbed her on the neck. At first we thought it was over but as soon as the lion’s grip was slightly too loose, she took the chance and ran into a warthog hole for safety.
Luckily for the leopard, she got away with her life but this does not happen very often. If lions get the chance to kill any competition they will take it. These three lionesses lay down close by the warthog whole until finally they gave up and moved away.
My guests and I were shocked at what had just happened but we were all glad that the leopard was alright.
Bryan – Kapama River Lodge
This evening started off quite cold and we did not expect to see much. It was an overcast evening and it got dark earlier than usual so we stopped for some drinks. Just as we were about to pack up the drinks we heard the call of a Leopard in the area. I asked the guests to jump in their seats so that we can try find this amazing animal.
We drove into the bushy area where the sound came from but we could not find her. Alfred, my tracker, and colleague, Kim, decided to make our approach back to the road with the hope that we might find her there. She was in the middle of the road and then moved off into the bush and we then followed her and lost her.
We found the female Leopard again and she approached a warthog hole. She tapped with her feet at the entrance of the hole and out came about four warthogs, one big female with her little ones. I am not sure how many they were. Everything happened so quickly. They were all over the place and confused the Leopard.
She missed three of them, one actually ran straight into her face and she didn’t manage to catch it. But, eventually, she killed one right in front of us and another just a little further away. After all this exhilarating excitement, we found a spotted Hyena coming along. It stole one of the Warthogs the leopard had killed so the female leopard ran for safety into a tree and waited for the scavenger to leave the area. She then slowly got out of the tree and made her way to the other kill which, during all this commotion, she managed to hide away from any threat. Finally she could enjoy her feast in peace and silence.
This was truly a once in a lifetime experience and we will remember this moment for the rest of our lives.
Janco Du Plessis
One afternoon drive, we already had a great beginning with seeing two male Leopards having a territorial dispute. The older male Leopard ended up getting pushed out of his territory and the younger male won territory that he could finally call his own! A little while later we had found a pride of Lions, one male and two females lounging around like lions do!!! Finally we decided that this was too much action for one day and a drink was needed. We stopped at a waterhole, with the sun setting just behind it.
We had just served everyone with drinks and chatting about the day’s events, and all of a sudden my tracker Tully asked us to keep quiet! It was as if someone had switched the radio off, we were deadly silent! Not far from us we heard these strange snorting noises and Tully explained that this was very unhappy Impala’s. So we very quickly packed up to go find out what was
upsetting these Impala’s so much. Drove one block switched off the engine and listened, drove to the direction of the snorting and switched the engine off and listened. We found the Impala’s all facing the same direction and as we looked beyond them we saw this little white body lying on the ground. As we drove closer i could not believe my eyes, we had just witnessed Africa’s largest snake- the African Rock Python kill a young Impala.
Males can get up to 4.5metres and females 5metres and easily weigh 55kgs, that’s a lot of snake for some people to handle. Their diet is varied but they can consume small antelope, monkeys, fish, monitor lizards and even small crocodiles have been recorded. Today this Python had killed a young impala, and it was through the mothers distress calls that we had gotten this phenomenal sighting. African Rock Pythons seek prey with their heat sensors, ambush and then use strength rather than venom. As the animal exhales the snake constricts and with every breath until the prey is exhausted of oxygen. Once the prey stops breathing the Python then releases his grip and goes towards the head and starts to consume his hard earned prey. At this time the snake is at its most vulnerable to predators, so he swallows the prey surprisingly fast. Once the Python has devoured his prey he goes into hiding like a cavity of a tree or maybe an old Aardvark hole, so that the digestive juices can take over!
It just goes to show that the bush is extremely unpredictable, you never know what’s around the next corner and if you us all your senses you just might just get so much more…
Morah-Leigh Cooper-Ranger, Kapama Karula
The last few days worth of game drive have included some fantastic sightings. Yesterday morning my guests and I were treated to two sub-adult Lions, one male and one female, sitting on a termite mound in the early morning sun posing for pictures. Several White Rhino were also encountered along with one lone Hippo and numerous amounts of Plains Game.
Last night, we tracked and viewed the herd of Elephants, leaving them only as the sun was setting in a brilliant orange glow. We then made our way up to view some Leopard, but as we got there they disappeared. For about thirty minutes we methodically and slowly circled the block until they got curious and came out to have a look. The young female Leopard stalked a Warthog in its den and then proceeded to eat what was left of a juvenile Impala kill while her brother dozed in the bushes.
This morning the same two Leopard treated us to a lengthy show of tag, hunting, and lazily meandering about until their mother called from the bushes and they ran off in search of her. Some refreshing coffee and hot chocolate was the enjoyed by the guests and we were off again in search of the male Lion who had been evading us for days. We were lucky enough to get to view him as he rested, walked, nuzzled the female, scent marked, and chased Impala.
As we made our way back to the lodge for breakfast a young male Hippo came strolling out of the bushes busy with his morning meal. What a fantastic few drives on Kapama!
Many many times I have been asked by guests why the animals do not run away, or attack, or act differently when we see them. My response is that the animals are used to us, which they are. We are part of their natural environment, their back drop of everyday life. With the cats, like Lion and Leopard, this takes great amount of time and effort by the rangers. With Leopard, if the mother is habituated, (used to the vehicles), then her cubs will be as well but if the mother is skittish then the cubs will be skittish.
This morning my Tracker Nick and I tracked and found two of our Leopards, the Hoedspruit male and female one and a half year old sub-adults. Their mother is not a habituated Leopard. She tolerates us from time to time but since the cubs were born we have been working with and viewing them and now, just as they’re about to set off into adult hood, they are getting more and more relaxed by the day. We were able to view them in bright daylight while they were relaxed, played, inspected us, groomed, and acted as young Leopards do. A few months ago they would have not been so relaxed. A second vehicle joined us in the sighting and they stayed relaxed, just moving from the sun into the shade. Again, a few weeks ago they would not have tolerated the second vehicle.
For us, because we’ve watched these cats grow from tiny furballs into the gorgeous creatures they are becoming, it’s very much like watching your children grow up and it’s with pride and huge smiles that we enjoy sightings like my Tracker, Guests, and I had this morning.
By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger