Leopards will always be one of the most sought-after animals here, for guests, rangers and trackers alike. Their beautiful rosettes blended into the changing vegetation, dappled light whether it be morning or evening, shining through the trees or scrub adding to their method of “blending in”. When one thinks of a leopard and a scene you might find it in, most would picture it to be in a beautiful big tree. Even though we do see them in trees, it’s not the typical scene but merely a highlights package of a sighting we dream and hope for. They actually spend far more of their time on the ground.
If you weight up what leopards do in trees versus the ground you can quickly realize that the list of activities on the ground far outweighs that in trees. A leopard needs to eat, drink, mark territory, mate, defecate as well as hide away from other predators. These activities can’t be done in trees, or at least the most of what’s mentioned can’t. Trees are used by leopards for hoisting that recently killed impala, they act as a vantage point to scan the surrounding bushveld for threats or prey, or for a short period of time they serve as an escape from other predators, to rest in. So again, seeing a leopard in a tree is less likely than one would think, and to see one in a tree with perfect colours soaking the landscape at sunset, now that’s a dream, a highlight, and one that stays in the memory bank for a long time!
I recently drove a lovely couple from Australia and their dream was to photograph a leopard in a tree. Easier said than done.
Yet one late afternoon game drive we were lucky enough to experience exactly that.
While driving in the north, we heard over the radio that a young female leopard had been found in a beautiful Marula tree, and it was only a stone’s throw away from where we were driving.
Being winter, the Marulas’ leaves had fallen and the only colour in the now stark tree was that of the Ingrid dam young female leopard and her golden coat with black rosettes. The sun was fast setting and the colours were as vivid as we could have wished.
The sky was a deep blue which only deepened as the sun neared the horizon. It was an evening that held a typical African sunset with shades from yellow to red which only intensified the scenario. By positioning the vehicle accordingly and adjusting settings of the camera as the light changed, it was sure to become that dream photo that had been envisioned. At first the young female leopard was huddled in, but then she began yawning, stretching and in a flash descended the tree and scuttled after a herd of impala that ran by.
Upon arriving at the sighting we were left speechless and in awe. The Ingrid dam young female leopard, daughter of the Ingrid dam female, huddled in a perfect position in a stark marula tree as she scanned the landscape below towards the setting sun. The golden rosettes contrasted well against the blue sky and brown/grey bark of the marula.
She is occasionally seen around the far north west corner of Londolozi, and is generally quite relaxed around vehicles.
It was a scene that won’t be forgotten. A beautiful young leopard in the perfect tree with the perfect light. It doesn’t get much better than that!