While most predators are opportunists, leopards are generally accepted to be the most adaptable of the lot. Their solitary nature lends itself nicely to adaptability, and their wide distribution across Africa and Asia is testament to just how many habitat types they can make themselves at home in.
This ability to adjust to the situation means that leopards are rather adroit at getting food where other big cats might not be able to recognize an opportunity to do so.
While digging through the archives a few days ago, I came across this rather interesting footage of the Nanga Young Female leopard (now the Makomsava female). I had meant to publish it at the time but clearly overlooked it.
The Nanga female had killed an nyala ewe on the banks of the Manyelethi River. The Nanga female is a small leopard, and the nyala was large, so the kill wasn’t hoisted straight away (it was subsequently lost to hyenas that night).
The nyala must have had a calf hidden away somewhere, as she was lactating heavily, and it was this milk that the Nanga female’s cub was taking advantage of:
One can clearly see at around 0:15 in the footage above how the young leopard starts to lick up the milk that is coming out of the nyala’s udders.
As weird as this might seem to our human minds, there was nothing untoward in the young leopard’s behaviour. There was a source of nutrition readily available, so she took advantage of it. It’s really that simple. I don’t know whether she was just experimentally lapping up a fluid or actually recognized the nutritional advantage therein, but I’m fairly confident it was being viewed as something not to be wasted.
It just happened to be a unique situation that we were lucky enough to be there to film.
We’d love to know in the comment section below if anyone else has witnessed this type of behaviour in a big cat?