” When I look into the eyes of animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul. ” – Anthony Douglas Williams – 

Nothing quite compares to the feeling of when a leopard’s eyes meet your own. Eyes are not called the gateway to the soul for nothing. When they lock eyes with yours, you are left with a sense of awe and powerlessness that can’t be described unless you have experienced it yourself. Despite the connection you may feel as their eyes lock with yours, they’re physically quite different to ours. Allow me to explain…

The Xidulu young female showing intense focus as her highly adapted eyes pick up movement in the clearing below.

Silenced with a glance from the Torchwood male.

The Xidulu young female locks her focus on us in the vehicle nearby.

Think of a leopard’s eye as a wide angle lens and ours as a zoom lens. Their field of vision is much wider than ours, spanning roughly 200 degrees compared to our 180 degrees. Now this doesn’t sound like a big difference but what it results in is something quite amazing. This wide field of vision means that their eyesight is not quite as acute as ours at long distances. Objects that we see from 50 odd metres away in sharp detail will be blurry for a cat who will start to see sharp images from roughly 10 metres away. You may be thinking that this doesn’t sound too advantageous for them. The difference comes in however, when you compare the photoreceptors in a cat’s eye which allows them to see in low light far better than us. This is obviously incredibly important, being nocturnal predators, needing to see well at night. While our eyes contain many cone cells which allow for great colour and detail, cats have a lot more rod cells. Rods allow them the ability to see at night and also allow for them to pick up rapid movements in a way we will simply never see. This means that they do not see vibrant colours like we do but they do see colour. Cats are mostly red-green colour blind but the lack of such intense vibrancy means that they pick up contrast a lot better than we can. Another thing to consider is that leopards, like a lot of animals, have what is called Tapetum Lucidum, which we do not. This is a layer of crystals that lie immediately behind the retina and reflects visible light back through the retina. This allows them to amplify the light passing through their photoreceptors by allowing the light to strike them twice.

Gazing out for any signs of movement from the safety of a termite mound.

The Torchwood male glances up at a flock of vultures flying overhead.

A close up of the Torchwood male’s eye showing a large pupil, which allows light to hit the photoreceptors in the eye.

Filed under Leopards Wildlife

About the Author

Nick Kleer

Field Guide

Nick joined the Londolozi team from Thornybush Game Reserve, and immediately began revealing his photographic potential, especially in the passion with which he pursued knowledge. An almost fanatical approach to improving his photography has seen him gain a rapid understanding of all the ...

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10 Comments

on Gateways to the Soul

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Darlene Knott
Guest

Amazing! My favorite animal!

Wendy Hawkins
Guest

Wow what an amazing blog & such amazing pictures! Thank you Nick 🙂

King Golden Mane Majingilane
Guest

amazing amazing pics some of the best leopard pics I have ever seen great job keep it up

Judy Boch
Guest

Amazingly beautiful photos!

Susan Strauss
Guest

Love love love

Al Kaiser
Guest

Great pics and write up!

sandra harmon
Guest

THE EYES HAVE IT!

Jill Larone
Guest

Very interesting blog Nick, and your pictures are beautiful!

Diane
Guest

I know that feeling of connection through the eyes of many animals and I cannot wait to experience it with the beautiful
animals of Africa. Your photos are exquisite!

Reanne Paterson.
Guest

Very interesting. Nothing is more exciting to me than a leopard sighting. Specially to see them on a hunt.

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