Tracker Freddy Ngobeni and I set off with our guests one afternoon with the intention of finding buffalo. We had heard reports of a fairly large herd on the western side of Londolozi, where the land opens up into grasslands – a favoured habitat of these large animals. Setting out to find buffalo can be a tricky task; one would think that a herd of 150 animals is easy to find, however, not being territorial means that the buffalo move freely over vast distances. We decided to drive along a fairly high road with a good view in order give ourselves a better chance of spotting the buffalo herd across the landscape. I soon became excited and pointed out what I believed to be a few buffalo in the distance. I was quickly corrected by Freddy who politely informed me that the buffalo I was pointing at were in fact a clump of dark coloured rocks…

A large herd of buffalo moves in the distance.

However, Freddy made up for my poor buffalo spotting by pointing out the actual herd of buffalo a few kilometres away, without the use of his binoculars! We made our way closer to try and get a better view.

A buffalo cow lifts its head to look at us while chewing on grass.

We sat with the buffalo moving around us for quite some time, enjoying the experience of having these large animals move nonchalantly past us while chewing on grass. It was a wonderful experience as the herd was an impressive size of about 150 to 200 individuals. We decided to move ahead of them towards a waterhole in the hopes that some of the may go for a drink.

“LEOPARD! LEOPARD!”, Freddy suddenly shouted to me from the front of the vehicle.

I could not believe my eyes. One hundred yards in front of us was a leopard in a tree. Not just a leopard in a tree though; the leopard was trapped in the tree by the herd of buffalo that we were following!

The leopard looks down at the buffalo that have trapped it in a tree.

Our buffalo sighting had just taken a turn for the better. Finding a leopard in a tree is a special sight. Finding a leopard in a tree with a herd of buffalo not more than a few feet below is a very rare occurrence indeed…

The leopard stands and watches the buffalo below it. Although the leopard was completely safe in the tree, she did not feel comfortable enough to lie down and relax while waiting for the herd to pass.

Born to the Tutlwa female in early-mid 2011, the Nhlanguleni female spent her formative months (and years) in and around the Sand River.

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Nhlanguleni 3:2 Female

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While we were watching, the buffalo stood for at least 30 minutes below where the leopard was perched. Who knows how long they had been there for before we arrived? As one buffalo would leave, another would see the leopard and move in to have a closer look. The leopard was not able to leave the tree at all as the buffalo may have seen it as a threat to their young calves and acted aggressively. As time passed however, the herd began to drift away from the leopard and towards the waterhole to drink before nightfall.

The leopard looks at more buffalo approaching from directly behind us.

This sighting acted as a reminder that you literally never know what is around the next corner out here. It is surprises like this that truly make each drive an exciting one.


Filed under Leopards Wildlife

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Nhlanguleni 3:2 Female

Nhlanguleni 3:2 Female

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About the Author

Pete Thorpe

Field Guide

Right from his very first bush trip at the age of four, Pete was always enthralled by this environment. Having grown up in the Middle East, Pete’s home-away-from-home has always been a bungalow in the Greater Kruger National Park, where his family had ...

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on Leopard Trapped in Tree by Buffalo Herd

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Wendy Hawkins

Welcome Pete! Yes it pays to be patient & see what comes out of the bush & the trees! 🙂 Look forward to lots more exciting blogs


Wow! What an incredible sighting! Great photo. How lucky are you guys. It’s amazing how the nurturing instinct to protect the young and vulnerable kicks in. I guess sightings like that make up for not being about to get to surf when it’s up.

Susan Strauss

So cool!!


Nice blog Pete and how fortunate you all were to get such a great sighting. Thank you.

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