Look a leop­ard in the eye

go! - - Upfront -

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.

Want to see a leop­ard, too? Our new Kruger guide is on shelf, or or­der a copy from winkel.weg.co.za (R55)

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