- Posted January 16, 2014 by
mpumalanga, South Africa
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Travel photo of the day
a day in the life of a mystical one eyed male leopard
His cracked tooth, cloudy white one eye lost in a fight several years ago and evidence of other more recent wounds, abrasions and fresh blood on his body did not seem to bother him as he wandered around the lush grass and vegetation that was soaked in recently fallen rain.
I had many wonderful photo opportunities to capture the character of this magnificent big cat. In particular a priceless moment where he conveniently pauses on his way up a mound filling the perfect gap in the natural frame I had observed between some trees and bushes. It is rare for nature to oblige and give the opportunity for an image that matches the one I imagine in my minds eye. After this magical moment that gives him a certain aura as he looks to the camera and surveys the land from his elevated position, he takes a rest on the mound. His rest is short lived and deciding to continue wandering the bush, he then smells and sights opportunity in the form of a small herd of wildebeest in the distance coming towards him. He suddenly changes his behaviour and goes into stalk mode. Staying low and taking his time he crawls towards a perfect hiding spot, a clump of trees and bushes between him and the approaching wildebeest.
Everything seems perfect. Almost too perfect. Staking out in his hideaway, we watch as the wildebeest approach.
One foal separates from the group and sits a mere 15 to 20 metres away from where our leopard is hiding. The foals mother comes out for a short while to watch over her young and not sensing any danger she moves away leaving it unprotected and exposed. Our leopard waits patiently as do we...
It has been said that a leopard can outpatient anything! This could go on for some time but surely not too long? After all the foal is extremely near and none of the wildebeest have any idea how much danger is lurking merely a few metres away.
Eventually small almost imperceptible movement is spotted by our leopard as I look through my lens deep into the bushes. Then an explosion and our leopard leaps dramatically from his hideout....but wait as I am now in panning mode trying to capture the sequence as the leopard starts running he proceeds straight past the foal which is nearest to him and which we thought would be his prime target. Reaching abeam it is even seen to be looking completely the wrong way. It would never have known what hit it or indeed how close to death it was but our leopard has something else in its sights much further away and having thought we were in prime position now frantically starting the vehicle in order to try to find out what was in its sights.
By the time we made it around, the game was up and the chase had ended. To complete the story I positioned the vehicle behind some wildebeest which had the gazes firmly locked on the now panting distant leopard. We never found out why he chose a more distant target or indeed what it was rather than take the obvious easy meal right in front of him. We joked that it had something to do with his one eye but the foal was in fact on his good side. Joking aside, this male may have been through the wars and not wishing to make fun of his hunting technique but he clearly has adapted remarkably well to his handicap and is able to continue to hunt presumably successfully. In all other respects he appeared fit and healthy. Nature always surprises and witnessing such events in the wild and being able to tell the story photographically is indeed a privilege.