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A Male Leopard Goes Down

  • 06/24/08
  • Nakedi

On Sunday May 22nd we received a call from Steve Faulconbridge, the conservationist from Singita Kruger National Park (SKNP). He had just found the carcass of a male leopard probably in his prime in the north of the concession.

Examining leopard carcass

Matthew Harding (SKNP’s head guide), Liky Gumede (Tracker), and I immediately went to the area to help Steve investigate the cause of death. Evidence suggested that the individual was killed while he was feeding on an impala that he had brought down. It is possible that the assailant was a nomad young male lion that took the opportunity when the leopard let down his guard. This can be expected because recently there were 49 lions spotted in the concession in one day. The concession is only 15 000 hectares suggesting that the lion density is very high.

Normally leopards place their kills high on the forks of trees. While this ensures that food will not be lost to other predators, it also protects the leopard from being attacked from the blind side while feeding. The dead leopard probably thought he was well hidden. A fatal mistake for a solitary animal! The rest of the animal was pretty much eaten by whatever killed him and other scavengers such as vultures and jackals. We were lucky to find the carcass ahead of the hyenas, or else there would have been no sign of the carcass.

About the Author

Joining AWF in 2007, Nakedi is the latest addition to AWF's team of species researchers in Africa. Working in the Limpopo region, where he's from, Nakedi's studying the great cats to shape conservation strategies that will benefit communities he's known all his life. Looking at Nakedi's focus areas as a zoologist – Cytogenetics, Molecular Biology, and Geometric Morphometrics – it's easy to see he is serious about conservation. Leopards as a species especially interested him because they are both powerful and elusive – making it a challenge to study and protect them.

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