About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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9 Comments

on Could a Leopard Recognize Batman?

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Marinda Drake
Master Tracker

Great blog James. I have read Elephantoms last year. A fantastic book. Cats are very intelligent. I have not got a leopard in my house but observed my domestic cats for many years. They can see themselves in the mirror and sometimes look for that other cat. They’ve learned to watch the television reflected in the mirror. They can see the birds outside in the mirror. The first time we watched Dereck and Beverly Joubert’s documentary Soul of the Cat comparing big cats to domestic cats our cat sat upright and started watching it. He stand up against the telivision and tap the big cats. He even go behind the television to try and find the other cats. We recorded the documentary and turn it on for him to watch. He knows it is his program that is on. They do learn certain behaviour.

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Hi Marida,
I’m sure their learning abilities are high. Just because what they’ve learnt won’t necessarily manifest itself in similar behaviour to us doesn’t mean they aren’t observing, remembering and learning all the time.

Dave Mills
Explorer

James, you’re the best: always interesting, always creative, always delightful to read.

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Thanks very much for the kind words David!

Joanne Wadsworth
Digital Tracker

Watching, I found myself as fascinated as the leopards! Loved watching a “first” in wildlife and that the mother, two years later, easily remembered the mirror and didn’t react at all. Oh, it’s just “that thing again.” The cub was undaunted however, even though Mother wanted to persistently groom. Wonderful to watch and I thank you James for the peek into an bush experiment. Well done!

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Hi Joanne,
Thanks for the comments. I was also thrilled to come across that video. Now I want to know what other creatures saw the mirror. Gabon is home to the Lowland Gorilla, which would have been fascinating creatures to observe viewing their own reflections…

Ted Swindon
Explorer

HI JAMES,
I TRUST THIS EMAIL FINDS YOU WELL.
I READ YOUR VERY INTERESTING POST,”COULD A LEOPARD RECOGNIZE BATMAN”?,
WITH ABSOLUTE INTRIGUE AND FASCINATION!
I HAVE FOR A LONG TIME BELIEVED THAT LEOPARDS HAVE THE CAPABILITY OF FACIAL RECOGNITION.
“YEAH TED TELL US ANOTHER ONE”!
I HAVE PROVEN IT AND HAVE SHARED THIS WITH SEAN D’ARAUJO AND BEJAY.

NOW, BEFORE YOU THINK THAT I AM COMPLETELY “COOKED” IN THE HEAD, I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU OF A RECENT EXPERIENCE I HAD.
THOSE OF YOU WHO KNOW ME, KNOW MY PASSION FOR LONDOLOZI AS WELL AS LEOPARDS!
I VISITED KIRKMANS CAMP IN NOVEMBER AND WE CROSSED OVER ONTO MALAMALA AND WE SAW A VERY NERVOUS FEMALE LEOPARD.
I IMMEDIATELY SAID TO THE RANGER THAT I NEW THIS FEMALE. AFTER FOLLOWING HER SHE NERVOUSLY STOPPED AND LOOKED UP AT THE VEHICLE, AND I BELIEVE SHE SAW ME SAW ME.
SHE IMMEDIATELY RELAXED AND LAY DOWN NEXT TO THE VEHICLE.
WE HEARD THAT THE SABI SABI RANGERS HAD SEEN HER EARLIER THE SAME DAY.
IT TURNED OUT THAT IT WAS THE NZANDZENI FEMALE WHO WAS IN A FOREIGN TERRITORY, HENCE HER NERVOUSNESS.
IT IS MY BELIEF THAT SHE WAS LOOKING FOR A NEW TERRITORY AS SHE WANTS TO MAKE WAY FOR HER CUB.
THE POINT OF TELLING YOU THIS STORY IS, TO CONCUR WITH YOUR BLOG, THAT IF A LEOPARD WAS TO SEE BATMAN AS MANY TIMES AS NZANDZENI HAS SEEN ME, THEN I BELIEVE SHE WOULD RECOGNISE HIM, AND I DO NOT HAVE A FANCY SUIT!
I KNOW THAT PEOPLE MAY THINK THAT I AM CRAZY, BUT I BELIEVE THIS THEORY VERY FIRMLY AS SEAN WILL CONCUR THAT IT HAS BEEN UNCANNY WITH MANY OF OUR SIGHTINGS IN THE PAST HOW OFTEN WE HAVE SEEN LEOPARDS DUE TO THIS THEORY OF MINE!
ANYWAY, IT IS AN ENTIRELY A PERSONAL BELIEF/THEORY OF MINE.
WHETHER THERE IS ANY TRUTH IN IT OR NOT, DOES NOT MATTER.
LET US HOWEVER RECOGNIZE AND GIVE CREDIT TO THESE MAGNIFICENT ANIMALS WHO LIVE IN A VERY HOSTILE WORLD THAT THEY HAVE A VERY HIGH LEVEL OF INTELLIGENCE.

THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING THIS “CRAZY” LEOPARD LOVING OLD MAN TO SHARE HIS PERSONAL EXPERIENCES!
TAKE CARE, AND I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING ALL OF YOU WONDERFUL PEOPLE AGAIN SOON.
KIND REGARDS,
TED.

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Hi Ted,
Good to hear from you.
This is something I’ve often wondered about. Some of the rangers here would have seen the Mashaba female well over a hundred times, and she them, so there surely would be some reciprocal recognition on the part of the leopard. Whether or not that recognition elicits any reaction or not from the cat is another debate entirely, but it’s certainly a fascinating topic!
Glad you saw the Ndzanzeni female next door!

Judith Guffey
Senior Digital Ranger

Wonderful stealth cam videos. Wonder who set up this experiment.

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