23 October 2011

Persevereance, strength & beauty

photographic safari leopard perseverance

It is October 2011 and we are staying for our Leopard Special Photography course on Londolozi Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand, South Africa.
The weather is not so great this morning and we have to wear the rain ponchos, but our spirits are high. One lady says: We are going to see something very exciting. How right she is. We are driving through the rain, spotting some impala and other plains game. Then our ranger gets the call. There is a leopard and we are off to see him. It is Cam Pan male, one of Londolozi's dominant male leopards. The rain doesn't seem to bother him. He is lying in the open clearing, cleaning himself before he starts feeding again on his kill. We watch for a while and then leave him alone.
It is still raining, but not that much anymore. Suddenly our tracker stops the vehicle, there is a kill in the tree, which means there should be a leopard as well. The vehicle turns and we are going off road towards the tree with the kill. And there on the foot of the tree lies the leopard in the grass, growling at us, defending his kill. We are very pleased to see that this is another dominant male leopard, his name is Shorty. He is not seen that often on the property anymore. We are lucky to see him.
He stays on the ground, the rain has stopped and we decide to drive off for a while to get the rain clothes off and the legs stretched. The comes the call of another vehicle over the radio. He is up in the tree. We are rushing back, just in time to see the most spectacular sighting. The moment we arrive he tries to rearrange his kill in the tree and he is obviously struggling. Something got hooked between the branches and he tries to pull it off. The kill is a Nyala and not much is eaten yet. The animal is quite complete still with the head. It looks like one of the back legs of the Nyala got hooked and he tries to pull it free by pulling the head. Its not moving. He tries a different approach and climes up the tree with the head still in his mouth to unhook it. A very good idea, but he loses balance and falls off the branch, still holding on to the head of the Nyala. The hooked leg of the Nyala holds them both, the Nyala and the leopard hanging on the head of the Nyala, swinging in the air.
One would think he would break his neck, but he doesn't. He holds onto it, even trying to pull it lose by swinging and bringing in all his weight. But the Nyala leg holds. It doesn't move an inch. The leopard lets go. He gives himself a break to get his wind back.
After a while the leopard gets up gain and jumps onto the still upside down hanging Nyala, still with the idea to pull it down with his weight. But no, the Nyala leg holds and so does the whole body and the skin. Nothing is coming lose. The leopard gives up again and rests in the shade.
A few hours later we are back at the sighting and the struggle is still on. Now the leopard is in the tree, pulling the Nyala to the side and up back into the tree, although with limited success, because the leg is still hooked. At least he manages to feed, well with big efforts.
We watch the whole scene of big efforts to feed and very necessary breaks to recover in between. We are in awe and can't believe what we see, between speechless and saying stupid things. Its just amazing.
Well, we have to go at last and promise ourself we will come back the next morning. We are back the next morning and the leopard is resting on the ground, his belly properly filled, panting from being so full. He deserves it. He didn't work only hard to make the kill, he also worked very hard to eat it. What a wonderful example of perseverance, strength and beauty.
If you would like to see the whole thing happening than have a look at the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x_FJs6kPZA