Leopard vs. African Rock Python… at night!

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It is a challenge to find a leopard in the wild and even more of a challenge to witness one make a kill. I was fortunate to witness both at once and what unfolded turned out to be one of the most interesting nature sightings I have ever seen. From a photography standpoint it was incredibly challenging to photograph because it was night, we were in a wild setting and everything happened in a very short space of time. Modern digital cameras are extremely capable these days though and so with a little luck and the right settings I was able to capture something.

We had been following the leopard for about 15 minutes while she patrolled her territory and searched for prey. At one point while she was walking along the edge of the dirt road we were on she stopped and stared into the long grass next to the road. Less than 10 seconds later she slipped into the grass and began to stalk something. We followed but gave a wide birth so as not to disturb her or what ever she was stalking. Seconds later she ran in on what looked like a rather surprised and unhappy African Rock Python. The snake recoiled and they faced off. Seconds later she attacked the snake and in the frenzy that followed managed to kill it. When the dust settled, literally, she emerged with the snake in her mouth and dragged it into the cover of a small tree. As she put it down to catch her breath she was surprised by a hyena who, I think more out of curiosity than anything, ran in and chased her off the kill. The hyena after seeing what it was she had killed expressed no further interest and moved on leaving her with the snake. The leopard picked up the snake again, dragged it for about 20 feet and then dropped it. It seemed she didn’t like the taste or feel of the snake and so after giving herself a quick clean she moved on.

Why she killed the snake we can only but speculate. She had a roughly six month old cub at the time and so may have killed it out of desperation to find food. Bold and gutsy hunters with a incredibly diverse diet ranging from small rodents to baby giraffe she may have also killed it out of curiosity.

The sighting did present a really interesting photographic opportunity and I enjoyed the challenge of capturing something different not only from a biological standpoint but also an artistic one.

Shaun Walton Photography - Leopard and Python


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