The Elusive Leopard

This morning before sunrise the sky is streaked crimson where the sun, just below the horizon highlights the thin clouds and Venus shines as big and bright as a small moon. The birds’ calls have a faint echo in the still air. I can hear the call of the male Impala close to camp as he brings together his female harem.

As we enter the park, we are joined by a herd of Zebra who are also entering the park, then we encounter a herd of cows who are just exiting the park after a night of grazing. The cows are quite frisky, especially the young ones who try to chase our vehicle, the fresh damp grass has given them a lot of energy, which has replaced the lethargic demeanor brought about by the recent drought.

It is nice to see that the long grass that has sprung up from the rains has brought many of the plains animals back to our area. Herds of tommis’ with their constantly swinging tails, impala, Jackals, warthog, a few wildebeest, and this morning so many herds of Topi. We see three Hyena possibly walking home from their night activities, although the Hyena never left, from the camp you can always hear the distinctive calls of several groups during the night and the early mornings.

Alison did it again, just off the main road he spotted a cheetah in the bush a little distance away. He pointed to where the cheetah was but neither me nor Ken could see it, even when we were told where to look! The driver took us in closer and there he was laying in front of one of the several bushes in the area. Ken asked, “how did you see that, from the road?” he replied, “well he just moved his head.”

This was Olodupo, the male cheetah who lost his brother a while ago, this area around our camp is part of his territory. He has a large territory and has been spotted as far as the Serengeti in Tanzania, it’s nice to see him back and doing so well. From his position he could see Topi grazing a little further up the hill and Tommi’s grazing below however neither could see him as he was well hidden from them. He did at one point get up and took a closer look at the Topi, in one of the photo’s you can just see them in the background, but he didn’t seem too interested. 

It may be that the Topi are quite large antelope, it would be difficult for a single cheetah to take down. After a while we left him relaxing and headed off. I love to spend time with this cheetah, I could have stayed with him all day.

Just five minutes later we come across part of the Sopa pride, just at the side of the main road, 5 sub adult males and one young female, chilling out. I wonder if these young males are preparing themselves for leaving the pride and going it alone. There was a very large herd of buffalo on the horizon, some distance away, much too far to interest them, but they were interested in 5 buffalo on the opposite side of the road who were occupied with drinking and rolling around in the river.

These buffalo were a considerable size and looked especially grumpy if not a little menacing. I’m sure they could smell the lions even if they didn’t see them but were not in least bit worried about the lions being so close and continued with their own activities. One of the lions got up to take a better look. When a male lion stares at you, even a young one it is time to be worried, this lion was staring intently, sniffing the air, and licking his lips, but it would have taken a coordinated attack from all six of them to bring down just one of these buffalo and the others didn’t seem interested, maybe they looked at the buffalo and didn’t like the odds.

It is amazing to think that all these animals, going about their daily business, is happening on our doorstep, living out their lives so close to, and intertwined with ours.

We head off the main road and onto the tracks that would normally take us to the blackrock females, we have not attempted these tracks since the rains, but they seem to have dried out enough now for us to attempt them. There are places still where the driver must stop to assess the possibility of getting through. This involves a lengthy discussion between the driver and the guide, in Maa, so we have no idea what they’re saying, then they get out of the vehicle to take a look, test the ground, and see how deep the water is. When they get back and start up the vehicle and we still don’t know what the decision is I have to ask, “is it bad?” the answer is generally “Yes, but not much bad” even when to me it looks very much bad. Only once this morning did we have to turn around and find an alternative route, so I have come to trust their judgement in these situations.

On our way to the blackrock territory we pass a herd of elephants, clearly an extended family as they are of all sizes and ages, including little ones that can only just be seen in the long grass. Also a family of waterbuck, a mother, father and young one, including a Giraffe in the background. I think the Waterbuck is the best looking of all the antelope. You can see how long the grass is, reaching the body of the Giraffe covering his long legs. In some parts the grass is taller than I am.

One surprise of the morning was the number of small white butterflies hovering above the long grass gently swaying in the soft, warm breeze, and the sweet-smelling bushes, putting on a lovely display. Hundreds of them, mostly white but on closer inspection have patterns on the tips of their wings in bright orange, yellow or black, the odd one or two completely orange or yellow. It was captivating.

The blackrock females are not around, after searching and making a few phone calls to see if anyone has seen them, we find out that they are in an area that is closed to all vehicles, so we are not able to see them today.


Instead, we go to find one of the Leopards. Alison is not sure which Leopard we will find as there are two females whose territory overlaps a little. When we find her, it turns out to be Kazuri, resting in a tree, the last time we saw Kazuri she was doing the exact same thing. She wasn’t doing anything, but she is so beautiful it is a pleasure to just sit and look at her. Leopards are so elusive that you need patience and a little luck to find them.

. Since Leopards don’t need to eat every day, especially if they live on their own, if they kill a mid-sized animal like an antelope, they can stash it in a tree, and it can last them up to seven days. So, to see a leopard hunting is very special and you need even more luck and of course time. Time is something we didn’t have today, and it is necessary for us to head back to camp.

Ken wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t mention some of the birds that we saw today, he loves to photograph the birds.

The first photo is the Grey Crowned Crane which is normally found on the ground, but this morning was perched at the very top of a tree, whose spindly branches didn’t look strong enough to hold him. The second photo is a Kite, the third a blue starling that was picking up crumbs from our breakfast, the fourth three beautiful bee-eaters and the final photos are of a saddle billed stork who has a very colourful and very long beak for catching his food in water and a heron who also feeds on insects and small mammals found in water.

Just before we reach camp, we see a family of Giraffe. There are always Giraffe in this area, this is another animal that never left, but what was unusual about this family was there were three young calves, Giraffes usually only give birth to one calf at a time, and only rarely do they have twins, two of these calves did look like twins and I’m not sure about the third one, whether he was older, or even belonged to someone else. Well that’s all for this week, I hope to be out again next week.

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