Leopards in the Kruger National Park
The leopard (Panthera pardus), roams freely in South Africa’s Kruger National Park however there are few large carnivores as shy and elusive as this beautiful animal.
Leopards are predominantly nocturnal or crepuscular predators, meaning they are most active at night or at dawn and dusk, generally the coolest times of the day. However as in all cases when speaking of wild animals, this is not always the case and they will, if the opportunity presents itself, hunt during midday.
When hunting, leopards rely on camouflage and stealth, stalking within a few metres of their prey before rushing out and surprising them with spectacular speed and agility. After the hunt they will generally (see always the word generally!) haul their prize into trees to protect the kill from other predators such as hyena and lion. Where these predators are not present they will comfortably eat on the ground, however in the Kruger National Park, they do indeed have a lot of competition from hyena and lion as they too, are rather common in Kruger.
Shoulder height – will vary between regions in Africa.
Kruger’s leopards, in particular the males can really get quite large with a shoulder height of around 40 centimetres.
Weight – males around 65 kilograms and the females around 40 kilograms.
Leopards in the Kruger National Park and other parts of Africa are solitary animals. They come together to mate, or when males are engaged in territorial disputes.
The ferocity associated with an angry leopard truly is a sight to behold. I was recently on safari in the Greater Kruger National Park when we came upon two male leopards engaged in a territorial dispute.
Now usually territorial disputes are short lived and the victor claims his stake after a few slaps, hisses and spits, it’s all usually over within a few minutes but today was different! We arrived on the scene and knew the dominant leopard well; who was being challenged; as he had been the dominant male of this particular area for a few years, the challenger was a new, much larger male, almost the size of a lioness! He truly was a massive leopard and in no mood to simply walk away from this fight!
The result was ferocity, the likes of which I had never witnessed before.
Neither of them were backing off and they both seemed fully prepared to fight this out till the very end.
Bursts of about one minute of fighting and mauling was followed by brief periods of rest where they seemed to call a truce before one would once again initiate another round.
Blood flowed, claws ripped flesh, ears were ripped to pieces and general mayhem ensued. I actually felt sorry for these two guys and must say, although it was a once in a lifetime sighting, it was not pleasant to see such beautiful animals hell bent on killing each other.
It really brought home the leopards reputation of being a fierce adversary to hunters and trailists confronting leopard in the African bush whilst on foot. If a leopard attacked a human being in the same manner these two were going for each other, there would not be much left within a few seconds! Having said this, leopards are shy predators and encountering a leopard on foot in the bush is indeed rare, they will in most cases avoid confrontation with humans.
We unfortunately, due to time constraints had to leave the sighting but we heard the fight continued on for a few hours!
The result of the dispute is that both leopards survived and are living in adjacent territories, out of each other’s way for now! I have included some photos I took of the sighting in this post.
Leopard densities in the Kruger National Park are reliant on the abundance of prey.
In the Kruger National Park, due to a relatively rich prey source, there is an average of 2-4 male leopards per one hundred square kilometres, and 7-12 females per one hundred square kilometres. The entire population varies from 9-16 per one hundred square kilometres.
Whilst on safari with Outlook, our guides see on average, leopard 45% of the time so the chances are really good that you will spot this elusive predator whilst on safari with us. Our combination safari increases the likelihood of seeing leopard as we visit the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, situated within the Greater Kruger National Park. This reserve is world famous for its leopard sightings and your chances of seeing leopard with Outlook on a Combination safari are increased to 90% at least.
Because leopards are territorial animals, and because our guides are in the Kruger so frequently, we get a good idea of where to look for leopards in the Kruger National Park. This enhances and increases your chances of seeing leopard, as opposed to simply hiring a vehicle and venturing into the Kruger on your own, it is always better to go with a reputable company, such as Outlook Safaris, where the guides are passionate and knowledgeable. A good safari company enhances your overall impression and understanding of wild animals and the environment in which they live.
I will in future posts, include more information on leopards, but unfortunately need to cut this one off here for now!
In conclusion it must be said that leopards rank highly on our guests lists of must see animals whilst on safari with Outlook, and for good reason! These predators are perfectly suited to their lifestyles in the African bush. They are handsome and stunning animals, generally calm and peaceful but prone to bouts of ferocity that only further enhances their reputation as Africa’s supreme predator.
If you are lucky enough, late at night whilst snuggled up in your safari tent, to hear a leopard calling in the bush sit up and take note! You are witnessing a truly memorable moment on your safari!
Enjoy; and we look forward to seeing you on safari in the Kruger National Park soon!!
Written by Leonard van der Walt – Outlook Lodge and Safaris
Facts regarding leopard densities in the Kruger National Park were taken from the book “Larger Carnivores of the African Savannas” written by J du P Bothma and Clive Walker
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