Browsing the archives as I like to do, I recently came across photos of a sighting of a mother leopard and her cub from yesteryear. One of Londolozi’s newer rangers was standing near me, and I called him over and out of interest asked if he could recognise which cub it was. He got it right fairly easily, but given that his job involves differentiating between individuals, that wasn’t too surprising. What I would be interested in is how many people who visit our blog on a regular basis would be able to recognise the current adult leopards from pictures of them as cubs.
So over the next couple of months we will be dropping in an occasional test to see how good everyone’s skills are at telling leopards apart.
A leopard genuinely doesn’t change its spots, so that’s the obvious way to go when trying to identify one. Don’t get too caught up in the spot pattern on the cheeks either. Although those are the standard markings we use to differentiate between individuals, it often happens that a photo of the leopard in question has the spot pattern obscured, so we are forced to look at other areas of its body to compare the spots. The face is a fairly typical place to start, but it doesn’t have to be limited to head spots.
During camera trap surveys for example, researchers use flank spot patterns to differentiate between individuals. This is largely due to photographic restrictions, in that the leopard is usually only going to be photographed walking past a camera trap, so a picture of its facial spots isn’t guaranteed, but it does go to show that it doesn’t really matter where you are comparing the spots, so long as you are getting a good comparison.
So to kick off the series, we’ll present three photos of the leopard we’d like you to identify. All the evidence you’ll need are in these photos so it should be fairly easy.
This sighting was the first proper one I had of the leopard in question. Ranger Mike Sutherland and tracker Life Sibuye had heard kudus barking near the airstrip, and knowing the antelopes must have seen a predator, we joined Mike and Life in the search.
Only a few moments after we got there, a female leopard stepped out into the road with her small cub in tow, and the following photos are of that sighting:
Have a look through those three photos. Try and establish the cub’s spot pattern, then compare it to notable adults currently featured on the blog. Then tell us which leopard you think it is. We’re giving you an easy one first up.
Answer to be revealed in tomorrow’s post…