On our safari in February we drove far to the north for the day into Serengeti National Park, to see the great migration. At 1:00 we saw dozens of vultures and storks congregating at this tree. These African storks eat meat, a far cry from our childhood image of a white stork delivering newborn babies.
A few minutes later, our guide stopped at the lone tree in the photo below. There’s a leopard nearby, and there might be a kill in the tree. No vehicles were parked here, a common indicator of animals. We all pulled out our binoculars and scanned the tree. This photo was taken at 120 mm focal length on a 40D, about 3 times magnification over the human eye. How our guide knew to stop at this tree is a mystery to me.
We finally saw some thin, brown legs hanging from a limb on the right side, half-way up the tree. The next photo, a tighter shot using a telephoto zoom lens at 380 mm, shows the kill more clearly. From the color of the legs, it looks like an antelope such as a gazelle or impala, probably an impala from the medium brown color.
Then we drove a half mile to a tree with a dozen or more land cruisers parked underneath. The leopard was in this second tree, away from its kill. After waiting for vehicles to leave, we finally had a clear view of the leopard. This photo shows the leopard from head to tail, shot at 160 mm focal length.
Here’s a tighter shot of the leopard, at 380 mm.
Our guide explained that the leopard is clever, hiding the kill in one tree and hanging out in another tree. During the day, vehicles like ours will call attention to the leopard. Putting the kill in a tree ensures than hyenas won’t get to the kill. Using a tree with leaf cover hides the kill from dozens of vultures a few minutes away.
You have to be clever to survive in Africa. And our guide is just as clever to see all this as he drives, to show us, and to teach us so we can understand. Asante, Mzee.