We have showcased a few camera trap or trail camera photos in the past, the most notable of which was when the Tortoise Pan male tackled an nyala right in front of a camera.
The then Ndzanzeni Young male (now Tortoise Pan male) tackling a nyala ewe in the foreground while warthogs flee in the background. The chances of this happening in front of the camera are next to zero.
We recently found another great opportunity for a trail camera when a hoisted impala ram was discovered along the banks of the Maxabene rivered one morning. The male leopard was seen briefly moving away from the vehicle nervously. It is not often we see nervous leopards, but every now and then individuals (normally males) disperse away from areas like the Kruger National Park where they have had little exposure to human influence. With a fair amount of meat remaining on the carcass, we knew the leopard would be back to feed at some stage. In fact, James Tyrrell waited for hours on two occasions only to be disappointed with no view of the leopard.
A beautiful image of the Mashaba female ascending a tree. Notice how she is using the knot as a launching point up the easiest slope of the tree. It would be rather difficult climbing this tree from the other side…
This was where the trail camera may provide us an insight as to who this leopard may be, while nobody was around watching. The tree in which the impala was hoisted had a perfect slope, which would provide the leopard with a clear path to ascend and descend the tree. We used this knowledge of leopards’ habits and set the camera up facing the mid-section of the tree trunk. There happened to be a small shrub in the perfect position upon which we could tie the camera box. We left the trail camera out for two days and nights, hoping that we had set it up correctly.
The very first shot of this leopard ascending the tree. The positioning of the camera worked exactly as we had hoped. This happened to be just after a vehicle had left the sighting, having not seen the leopard at all.
The magic shot we had been hoping for! The shutter speed of the trail camera was exceptional to capture the leopard in mid-jump as he climbs the tree for an evening feed. We were ecstatic to see this when we collected the memory card.
Take note of the date and time stamp on this image. It is a different night at a different time to the image above. It is astounding how the leopard has jumped in almost exactly the same manner to ascend the tree on two different occasions! Look very carefully at the two images and you’ll notice slightly more sky under the neck of the leopard on image 1 (4/6/2020) as well as some bark from the tree that has been displaced under the hind feet.
Notice how the leopard’s belly is now bulging out on the sides having devoured almost the whole impala. This was the last time he ascended the tree before he lost the kill.
The pictures that were captured on the trail camera would never have been possible in person as this leopard chose not to be seen on every occasion that we tried to view him. We know he was watching us though, as the evidence is captured in these images of him returning – in some cases mere minutes after we left!