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February 24, 2017

A Kruger Leopard Sighting

S26 Bume Road Leopard

Every trip to “Kruger” is memorable, on this occasion I will never forget the excited call from my son Lynton… “Leopard”. He was the driver on the day and by the time the rest of the occupants in the vehicle had reacted and focused there was nothing in sight. I saw the white flash of a tail was Lynton’s explanation, his acute knowledge of the bush and calm nature led to a slow approach to the point of the sighting he had noted in his memory.

Low and behold a Leopard, away to our right hidden in the thickets, with a glare only a leopard can give, our first view…..

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Once the chatter and excitement had settled and both Animal and human had found their space, calm ensued. What happened next was one of the best Leopard sightings for me in the Kruger National Park so far. After a void of sightings for about fifteen years in Kruger, things were about to change.

Big Boy” got up and moved to the verge of the road, here he proceeded to mark his territory, walking and sniffing around, aware of our presence but relaxed.

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

The territory marking occurred at several points on our journey following “Big Boy”, proceeding up the road with us in tow he remained relaxed.

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Moving along his territorial path, from right to left across the road he afforded us exceptional views, most precious was the time. All my previous sightings had been fleeting and none had involved time that one could call an occasion.

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

It remained fascinating watching this big cat on his patrol, the surprising aspect for me was the time of day, 10:30 in the morning….

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

For leopards, the function of marking out a territory serves several purposes. It tells other leopards that may smell, see or hear the signs of their presence and something about the cat that made the scent marks. There is information that tells of the occupation of an area, the sex of the cat leaving the sign and some information about the breeding status of the marking cat.

A quick check on the homo-sapiens following, during the whole period we were the only vehicle there.

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

We were afforded time, precious time with this magnificent cat, I believe the space we afforded the cat was key to the long interaction. We never moved in close and invaded his space, keeping our distance and observing for any signs from “Big Boy” that he might be uncomfortable with our presence. Leopards remain my favorite wish-list sighting when visiting a wildlife destination. Although these images are from way back in 2010 the vivid recollection of events remain entrenched forever.

Slipping away into the African bush as silent as he had approached was the point when another vehicle arrived, all we could say was, there was a Leopard here….

Yes, I have had numerous good sightings of leopard after this event, possibly the long period of no leopard sightings prior to this occasion leaving the lasting impression of memorable trip.

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