Its Monday and the leaping leopard

Hello there! I hope that you are fabulously well after another glorious weekend. Here in the Luangwa the last few nights we have been surrounded by the gentle calls of lions throughout the night which has been lovely. However, this week you are not going to be hearing from me, you are hearing from Will and Lianne Steenkamp our award-winning filming duo who are going to give you a little insight into the behaviour of leopards.

But before I hand over to them, we would like to extend a huge congratulations to Will & Lianne, Into Nature Productions, as their #LeopardLegacy documentary, filmed from our Nsefu Camp, has won “Best Animal Behaviour” program in the 44th International Wildlife Film Festival! We could not be happier for the dynamic duo, who did such a fantastic job of telling/filming Olimba’s story. Huge congratulations!
If you are in Germany, please tune into German Prime TV at 2015hrs tonight to watch this film.

Will and Lianne – over to you:

“Leopards are known for their adaptive behaviour, and in all their different habitats they each have their own strategies to survive. Luangwa’s leopards also exhibit very unique traits, and now and then, an event in their environment allows for some remarkable behaviour.

One such event is the Yellow Billed Stork Colony in the Nsefu sector. When the chicks hatch at the end of the wet season, many different animal species are found around the colony, all waiting for a hunting or scavenging opportunity. Raptors, crocodiles, baboons, marabou storks, and hyenas are often the first to be seen. And now and then you’ll also find a leopard amongst the opportunists…

In 2019 a young male leopard, known to us as Makumbi, discovered the Stork Colony. Like the yellow billed stork chicks, he was at an age where independence beckoned, and learning to hunt was one of the key elements to his success. When the stork chicks learnt to fly and managed to safely land on the ground just below their nests, Makumbi eagerly started spending his days and nights at the Colony. But hunting prey with wings turned out to be quite a challenge for the inexperienced, young hunter. It was remarkable to watch his determination, chasing them up and down with an endless amount of energy. And over time, he had some success. But his bird hunting seemed short-lived, because the fledglings soon moved off to the river. Yet, Makumbi followed them there, and continued his bird hunting endeavours along the riverbank – watch this 1min clip here.

It was astonishing to see a leopard, known to be an elusive cat that usually stalks through the undergrowth to get close to its prey, out in the open and running along the riverbank in long stretches, intent on catching the birds. Fortunately for him, after each hunting attempt the young storks simply returned to the riverbank, allowing him to try time and time again. This chasing out in the open in its own was a remarkable sight – behaviour not often seen, and most likely never recorded before. But Makumbi surprised us even more when he came up with a different strategy. He hid in the small ditch of the riverbank and when a stork flew over, he leapt in the air and stretched out his paws to reach for the birds in flight. He combined chasing with leaping, and, in the end, he managed to catch a few unsuspecting storks.

At the time we thought his bird hunting was mostly a lot of energy expenditure for very little reward. But what we didn’t know then, was that his bird hunting skills were to become invaluable later in his life, when he really needed it for his survival…”

Wow, amazing thank you so much Will and Lianne! If you haven’t watched their film Leopard Legacy, I highly recommend it as a great watch. There is truly little else for me to say, except to bid you all a very fond farewell. Have a wonderful week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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