Look a leopard in the eye
In October last year, I had a wonderful encounter with a male leopard at the Biyamiti weir on the S114 in the Kruger Park. There was one other vehicle in front of me when I approached the weir. The leopard pictured slowly walked towards my vehicle and jumped onto the weir to give the performance of a lifetime. It lay down on the rocks, drank water, walked up and down and watched me from a few metres away. My adrenaline was pumping! My window was open the whole time so that I could take photos – something that other people have criticised me about. However, I evaluated the situation and decided that the leopard wasn’t interested in me at all. GRAEME MITCHLEY, Johannesburg
Wildlife expert LD VAN ESSEN comments: When you’re in a vehicle, an animal doesn’t see you as a human – you’re just a part of a much bigger creature and your smell gets lost in the scents of fuel, emissions and oil. The leopard also chose to move towards the vehicle. If a dangerous animal like a lion, an elephant, a leopard, a buffalo or a rhino approaches you instead of the other way around, there’s a lower risk of the situation escalating. The animal is adapting its comfort zone; you’re not forcing your way closer against its will. That said, this was still a risky situation. A wild animal will always be unpredictable. Graeme was probably not in danger, but if he’d made a sudden move when the leopard was close, the situation could have gone from harmless to life-threatening in an instant. When it comes to wild animals, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
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