This month’s blog features Walter Smith, one of our directors and long standing members of the Desert & Delta Safaris family. In this post Walter share’s an incredible sighting in the Moremi Game Reserve and the incredible story of a young leopardess who he’s become rather fond of over the years.
The one significant thing about the Moremi Game Reserve for me over the years are the incredible Leopard sightings which I have had. I have been working for Desert & Delta Safaris for over ten years and Moremi never seizes to amaze me.
In particular, on my many visits to the area, I have often gone in search of a particular young leopardess which I have known and followed since she was a small cub. She was born within an area of the Xakanaxa region of the Moremi Game Reserve which we know as Veronica’s Island. Her mother was resident within that area and known to the guides as a very successful and highly territorial leopardess of Veronica’s Island.
When this young female was about a year old, the mother’s territory became too small for the two of them. Her mother was courting a large male leopard of the area which created extra tension between them. Her mother soon became pregnant again and when she gave birth to a young male cub, this young female had to move on. She was often sighted in the Jessie’s Pools area and then started ranging through the area known as old airstrip and weather station. This range extended even further until she set up her own territory in the Paradise Pools area in early 2015.
This young leopardess was and still is a formidable huntress. I recall watching her hunt with complete stealth and precision on francolin when she was still a young cub and one of my highlights was watching her take down a young female impala, from her perch on an overhanging sausage tree branch near Jessies pools when she was not even a year old.
She is beautiful and I have always observed her with admiration.
In early April 2015, I spent a few days at Camp Moremi and we experienced some heavy rain at that time.
I took a drive to Paradise Pools, one of my favourite areas in the Xakanaxa region of the Moremi Game Reserve. In the middle of a heavy downpour we stopped to look at a small group of male impala when, as if from nowhere she came out from underneath a small croton bush, right next to the vehicle. She was saturated from the rain, but not fazed by our presence at all. She immediately fixated on the impala and started stalking them with incredible stealth. This was a very clever move on her behalf as the noise of the rain and the fact that the air would not carry her smell negated their senses in detecting her. Like a flash she took off after one of them, but the big male impala noticed her advance and just managed to escape her attack. She turned around and walked back to where we were parked and just sat there waiting out the cloudburst. As the rain dissipated, she shrug off the water from her coat and walked over to a nearby tree where she took up her rest and surveyed the beautiful Paradise Pools area which she now owned as her territory.
The following morning we headed back to this area and found her about three hundred meters away from where we had left her that previous evening. She was lying on a branch of a dead leadwood tree and enjoying the morning sunlight as it broke through the forest vegetation around her. The heavy dark rain clouds had dissipated to some extent and the yellow morning light was breaking through the clouds. She was staring intently to the north and then sat up and started calling in that direction. The rasp of the leopard’s call was incredible, and immediately the birds and squirrels in the area began their alarm calls. She descended from the tree and walked over to a fallen tree trunk where she was clearly scent marking. We followed her for about half a kilometre until we could hear the reply rough rasping call from what we thought was another leopard. We drove to an open area and across a small floodplain, headed in her direction, was a big male leopard, also scent marking as he ambled in her direction. They both disappeared into the bush and we lost sight of them.
This past month (April 2018), I was back in the Xakanaxa area and we were headed back to Paradise Pools to go and assist with the setup of a sundowner surprise for our guests staying at Camp Xakanaxa. Earlier that morning, the guides from Camp Xakanaxa had reported that they had sighted a leopard with two mid-sized cubs. On our way we searched for the possibility of a sighting. To our delight, there she was – this very same Leopardess and now the mother of two beautiful and healthy cubs – one male and one female. She had killed an impala and had placed it in a tree to secure their meal from potential hyenas and other predators. As beautiful as ever and now fully grown, she displayed her cubs for us.
I cannot wait to get back there to look for and photograph more of this lovely leopard and her cubs.
Thanks to Walter for sharing these exceptional photos with us. Vsit the Moremi Game Reserve and Camp Xakanaxa pages on our website for more insight into what this region has to offer as one of Botswana’s prime wildlife destinations.