Wednesday, 20 November 2013

#480 In the field: Africa . . . the big cats: Leopard, part 1

Please start this series of posts with #477

This post and the next, spotlights the LEOPARD . . .
one of three big cats experienced "in the field" on a recent trip to Tanzania, Africa.

Please note, the previous post was about the CHEETAH and after two posts about the LEOPARD, I focus on the LION.

Unlike the Cheetah and Lion, Leopards are known for their ability to climb trees and are routinely seen dragging 
their kill up trees, hanging and securing them on branches, and returning to feed, again and again.      

Below, is a photo of a magnificent Leopard surveying its territory in the Serengeti.

The LEOPARD is smaller than the Cheetah and Lion but due to their massive skull and jaw muscles, 
they are able to take large prey such as impala, Thomsons gazelle, bushbuck,  warthogs, primates, 
and even young giraffe as well as smaller prey such as rodents, birds, and reptiles.  
They silently stalk their prey, pounce, and strangle the throat with strong teeth and jaws or bites 
on the back of their neck and typically, drag them up a tree, safe from other predators, to feed.

Below, are studies of the Leopard from my sketchbook.

Below, while in the Serengeti, we saw this Leopard with a kill in a fig tree.  We watched the cat move the kill to a different branch and after it had eaten its fill, descend and - according to our guide -  probably went to a nearby waterhole.  I'll never forget the profound drama of this encounter with hyenas circling the tree!  We spotted this incident  at a kopjes, which is a rock outcropping on the savannah plains.  Kopjes is the Dutch work for "head." 

Several hyenas were under the tree, waiting for dropped morsels of meat.  Although Lions are occasionally successful in climbing trees and stealing Leopard kills, hyenas can only take a kill away from a Leopard on the ground . . . 
if the cat is unable to move the kill to a tree.

Below, a hyena waits under the fig tree for the leopard to drop morsels of meat. 

Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish Smith

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