leopard in tree

A leopard and its kill

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.

dozens of vultures and storks
dozens of vultures and storks

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.

acacia tree with leopard kill
acacia tree with leopard kill

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.

leopard kill
leopard kill

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.

leopard in tree
leopard in tree

Here’s a tighter shot of the leopard, at 380 mm.

tighter shot of leopard
tighter shot of leopard

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.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

4 thoughts on “A leopard and its kill”

    1. Thank you. I agree that the animals should feel relaxed. There were several times on our safari when I felt that vehicles pressed animals too closely, making them uncomfortable, but this wasn’t one of those times. The leopard is high up in the tree, trying to sleep. Cats sleep most of the time, and leopards are nocturnal.

      As you know from your safari and gorilla-watching experience, the amount and closeness of interactions with humans is always an issue for wild animals. The cats drew the largest crowds of safari vehicles, and we saw the highest density of safari vehicles on this day in Serengeti National Park. In contrast, in our four days at Alamana camp, we saw only the 2-3 safari vehicles from our safari. You feel the vastness of Africa is yours! 🙂 This sounds selfish, and I’m wondering if I feel a bit of guilt. But for me, this was a profound feeling that’s much harder to experience in developed countries.

      There’s a tough economic dynamic where the animals usually lose. We safari clients want to get close to the animals to better see and photograph them, and we are disappointed when we miss a good photo opportunity. The guides want to please the clients and improve the tips. Several times our lead guide had to tell guides from other safaris to move back to give the animals more space, and remarkably, the other guides generally complied. I’m starting a post where this occurred, and I’ll be sure to include that aspect.


      1. I think good guides like that are invaluable – we could all learn from that sort of respect.

        I suppose it depends on how familiarised the animals are as well.

        In Tanzania animals have a lot more space than the likes of the Kruger so might only come in contact with people every so often, rather than daily.

        Spoze if we all became super stars overnight we would eventually become acustomed to our change in circumstances….

        This is why I agree partially with the high cost/low impact approach Botswana took to their tourism. It allowed it to develop slowly in a controlled way and still make a lot of money rather than attracting more people to get the cash flowing in.


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