Paula Gilhooley….Leopards of Kruger National Park

One of the Big 5, Leopards are one of the hardest of the group to site as they are extremely elusive and extremely well camoIMG_6778uflaged.  There are about 1000 of these nocturnal beauties in Kruger and are found throughout the entire park as they adapt easily to a number different environments. Leopards are powerfully built and uses cunning to catch its prey which they drag into a tree for safe keeping from other predators and scavengers.   They can hunt in both daylight and at night, they are the supreme ambush hunter.   But, during the day they can usually be spotted sleeping in a tree, draped over a branch. The leopards coat is short and dense with black dots surrounding reddish brown central dots. Their stomach is white and less densely spotted, the tip of their tail is also white.  The spots on their face are unique and help identify one

DSC00832 leopard from another.  They are territorial and can often be spotted in the same general area.  In Kruger certain Leopards are given names that correspond to the area which they can often be seen.

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Except when mating, Leopards are solitary animals. The gestation period is three months and leopards letters are usually  up to three cubs. Leopard cubs are extremely hard to see as IMG_6793 their mothers keep them  well hidden from predators.  In Kruger their preferred prey in Impala but they will also hunt smaller animals including warthogs, large rodents, baboons and monkeys. It is always a treat to spot a leopard and even more of atreat to be able to get a good photo of one.  In my trips to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda we only spotted one leopard a great distance away in a tree with the tail hanging straight down giving us a clue that there was a leopard attached to this “unnatural” branch in the tree.  My first trip to South Africa we only spotted leopard twice in 8 weeks, my second and third visits of 8 weeks also yielded very few sitings of Leopard.  My last trip to Kruger two years ago we saw no leopard for the first 4 weeks but in the last month we had 12 different leopard sitings.  I am hopeful of getting some great sitings in September and October when I return to South Africa and Kruger National Park.

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