Kgalagadi’s Camouflaged Leopard

After many years of visiting Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park I have only seen a few leopards. On a recent trip this past February the photographic opportunities were scarce. It was extremely dry with no water in the riverbeds so the herbivores had all migrated into the dunes, followed by the predators.

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On my last day I still had not seen a leopard but the Kgalagadi Research Project, an organisation I follow, had reported a leopard in the area I was staying. I decided to drive the stretch of road between Kamqua to Gemsbokplein waterholes (about 15km) to see if I could spot the leopard.

I drove the stretch of road between Kamqua and Gemsbokplein waterholes two or three times and nothing. On my final drive back from Gemsbokplein I decided to turn off the engine and just look and listen. Without another pair of eyes to look, spotting game was not as easy as it sounded.

I noticed some caves in the side of the river and examined them carefully.  In the first few I saw nothing and then I noticed that famous white tail and I said to myself “Got you!!”

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Can you spot the leopard?

Heart pounding I grabbed my binoculars as I was convinced I was seeing spots, but then I thought perhaps I was wrong as it was so dark inside the cave. How I actually saw this leopard still amazes me, it was at least 150m away from the road at the top of the river bank.

I first saw the leopard at 12:16pm. I waited and waited, then it moved, only lifting it’s head to fall flat again. I decided to take a slow drive to Kamqua waterhole where I found some wildebeest on their way to drink and then headed back to the cave, and the leopard was still there! By 3pm the temperature was 42°C and I was overheating in my car waiting for a photograph opportunity.

I waited, and waited and waited… and then at 17h30 the leopard started to lick itself, giving the occasional yawn.

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Then at 17h45 she got up and went to lie in the shade under a tree about three metres away from the cave. The leopard was now more camouflaged than it had been in the cave. It was getting late and I was getting anxious about getting back to camp but I still did not have a great photo of the leopard.

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Then again at 17h55 she got up and had a stretch against a tree and sharpened her claws. There were 30 minutes left until the gates closed as she walked down towards the river-bed and went to lie in the shade of a thick bush. My time with the leopard was done.

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Back at home I mailed the pictures to the Kgalagadi Research Project team and they identified her as Miera and I was informed that she was recently spotted with a cub. I cannot wait to get back there to hopefully see her cub.

Posted in Corlette's Blog.