Wildlife photos by Yvonne van der Mey

Leopards of Kruger National Park and Kalahari Desert

Leopard (not to be mistaken with the cheetah) might be the member of the Big-Five that is most wanted by every visitor to Africa. A magnificent animal, a top predator, great at climbing in trees and the most elusive of all. It is a sighting not easily forgotten, if a Leopard climbs up in a tree with a prey that is as big as himself.

With its spotted coat this large cat can be very hard to see in the bush. Most encounters with leopards come as a big surprise. One moment you don’t see anything and then the next moment, you’re looking right into its eyes. A very experienced African ranger told us once that “one can only see a leopard, when the leopard wants to be seen”. And after spending so much time in the African bush, I believe him. Most of these pictures were taken in the Kruger National Park in South Africa and in the Kalahari Desert.

Even though a leopard is much smaller than a lion, I have much more respect for the leopard as a predator. A leopard is very smart; we have witnessed one planning to kill a warthog and then execute the plan perfectly. We have heard of leopards watching people/herdsman to figure out their routines and then after some time get what they were after. Leopards hunt in a very different way to other predators. Most of the time they don’t chase their prey, but rather wait in ambush.

Leopards are very successful; the only member of the Big Five that still roams freely throughout Africa, also outside the National Parks. You can’t keep a leopard inside and you can’t keep a leopard outside, the leopard goes where he pleases.

A number of this photographs are used by the University of Capetown in a book for identification of leopards.