The Leopard

The most elusive of the large cats in Africa, leopards are solitary, usually nocturnal and almost always secretive. They are typically found in trees or dense wooded areas, making finding one all the more difficult. The leopard hunts by stealth, trying to come within five yards of its prey before pouncing. They are incredibly strong, able to drag a 150 pound impala for miles before carrying it up a tree to feed (out of the reach of hyenas and other scavengers).

Each of the three leopards pictured here was spotted in the Moremi Wildlife Reserve in Botswana within the first two weeks of my trip. The large male was especially cooperative, allowing us to stay with him for several hours. During the remaining nine weeks of my trip, I caught only the quickest of glimpses, usually in poor light or dense brush and always too quick to even aim the camera. One thing I learned – the best to find a leopard is to not look for one. Each time we set off with the intention to find a leopard, we ended in failure. Those leopards we did see each came upon us unexpectedly.

At night, one sometimes hears the leopard's call – a sort of "sawing" sound that one would never associate with a cat. Their tracks were often visible around camp in the morning. Because of their secretive nature, leopards have managed to exist undetected even in suburban areas, often hunting domestic animals, pets and sometimes people.