As we drove slowly towards our camp in the Moru kopjes area of the Serengeti we passed a herd of zebra that were moving north. Then suddenly they bolted to the side, stopped and gazed into the apparently benign grasslands.
I told the guests that they must have smelled a predator or something they didn’t like. The zebra stared for a short while before changing direction, and continuing on their way. We scanned the area thoroughly with our binoculars, but didn’t see anything.
A small herd of Thomson’s gazelle nearby was relaxed and seemed to tell a different story. So we continued to drive along slowly, looking all the while.
Suddenly Anthony, one of the guests said “Stop, there is a leopard”.
We stopped abruptly, and we were looking out over the plains, when Anthony said “no here!” pointing down, right next to the vehicle.
Sure enough not more than fifteen yards from the herd of Thomson’s gazelle was a big male leopard still busy strangling his prey, a large male gazelle. He was crouched down in the grass, probably still placing him out of sight of the nearby herd.
We watched as he finished killing the antelope, and then as he scanned the surrounding area planning what he would do next. After ten or fifteen minutes he still had not made a move, and concerned that we were too close to him, we pulled away to give him more space. At that point the leopard grabbed the antelope by the neck and proceeded to drag it through the grass and than across the road behind the vehicle.
He appeared to have a bad limp, and I wondered if it was an old injury or something he had done during his hunt.
The leopard stopped a couple of times to rest and catch his breath. It is hard work when you are dragging something almost your own body weight with your teeth.
He dragged his kill to the base of a large desert date tree, before studying it to plan his route up.
Than he seized the kill and with what seemed like an effortless motion, took the gazelle up into the tree, and wedged it among the branches in the very top, to get it away from other large predators, and so that he could enjoy his meal at leisure.
Truly a once in a lifetime experience.