The 3:2 Maxabeni Young Male had sharpened his instincts. He saw the hyena coming from the other side of the river. Tensing his muscular body into the tall grass, he watched the unwitting hyena draw closer. For a brief moment the hyena stopped and stared at the young male leopard. Blinded in one eye, cyclops sniffed once, unsure of whether he was seeing the patterned cat or if the windswept grass was playing tricks on him. He could smell nothing in the stiff breeze. He sniffed again…still nothing. Loping forward, he moved into the bush unaware of the potential conflict he could have begun.
You can see the growing confidence of this young male leopard. No longer does he bolt up a tree at the first sign of danger. Now, he slips in and out of precarious situations, keenly aware of his physical abilities and secretive presence. He is willing to experiment with danger, testing the waters and boundaries of where he fits into this broad wilderness. He is growing into adulthood.
The challenges to come will be even riskier. Hyenas are not the only danger. He will still have to contend with lions as well as territorial male leopards. Despite his size, he lacks ability. Despite his confidence, he lacks experience. He will learn, or else he will die. He is on stepping onto the edge of maturity and hopefully into this wild area’s history as a leopard of significance.
Written & Filmed by: Rich Laburn
Photography: Heidi-Lee Stockenstrom & Rich Laburn