A Cooperative Leopard in Zambia

Leopards are better than lions; well maybe not better but they are more interesting in many ways. Lions are rather common on the African savannas where as leopards may also be common* and widespread but no where are they as easy to locate or watch. In both cases the animals, lions and leopards, are likely to be dozing during the day. Cheetahs are the only truly diurnal cat. To see a leopard up close is memorable and to see one go through a variety of leopard behaviors is quite special.

In Zambia, along the Zambezi River, inside the Lower Zambezi NP we came upon a most cooperative young female leopard. this was great for us but may not play out as great for her. Leopards should be shy and retiring, spending the day in a tree or thicket, and living as a creature of the crepuscular times. She was seen several days in a row out in the open and on the ground near her food/kills. This will soon invite lions and hyenas to the area and she may not only loose her lunch but her life.

But anyway, this was about a two year old female who is out on her own after spending her first two years with her mother. She may have had litter mates as leopards commonly have multiple births. She successfully hunted a baboon just  before dusk as the baboons were headed to a roost tree for the night. And the next morning she had killed a young impala. In neither case did she take the remains to a tree. She probably left the baboon remains, there wasn’t much left over, for the night scavengers and made the kill early the next morning.

This animal was clean and shiny. Her like so far has been easy and she is pretty much untouched by her surroundings. Now that she is away from her mother and on her own things will likely become more demanding.
We found her one morning with a dead impala but she was still interested in the remaining impala and spent some time looking at the group browsing nearby. They were accompanied by baboons and the baboons were on guard. If she had started to stalk the impala the baboons would have barked and blown her cover.

So, she slinked away, low and pretty much out of sight. Once she had moved so the impalas and baboons couldn’t see her she relaxed again.  
She had most of this impala remaining so her desire to hunt was not based on food but on a cats instinct and desire to hunt.
When she relaxed she lay out on the ground usually right out in the open. Most leopards learn to climb trees to avoid encountering troublesome competition. It is probable that when lions or hyenas arrive to steal her dinner she will learn to (both) hide her food and herself in the local trees during the stay and during siesta time. If she doesn’t learn this lesson the lions and hyenas are likely to kill her or at least make her regret learning slowly.
She is a nice looking animal. I will be back there in a few weeks and hope that she is still around. As I said she is about two years old and will likely breed at two and a half. The male is not part of the scene after mating. Lions are the only social and group cat. The female will secret the baby away for a few weeks and then keep it/them with her for about two years.
A female leopard will weigh only one hundred pounds, max at about 130. A male will be about 20% heavier and sometimes even more. 
* Leopards are thought to be common and widespread in all habitats excepting extremely arid ones. But, as they are secretive, nocturnal, and quite heavily poached it is difficult to get a real sense of how many there are in any given area. Their main predators are man and lions; two rather common animals in most leopard habitat.

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