National Geographic: Eye of the Leopard

Synopsis:
Year:
2006
19 Views

There is an extraordinary cat in this forest.

The ultimate predator.

A silent and often invisible killer.

Every leopard has unique markings,

but this one

has a small round spot to

the right of her nose,

between the two solid whisker lines.

This will always distinguish her from the others.

This is the story of Legadema,

a jewel of the forest,

who reflects in the shine of her eyes

all the experiences is of a life

running a gauntlet of death

from her very first day.

Her story through the

eye of the leopard.

This is her place,

these flooded marsh lands of a place called Mombo

in Botswana's Okavango delta.

It is Africa's garden of eden,

with fertile floodplains filled

with nutrients and greenery.

It is the very best leopard

territory you can imagine,

and this is where Legadema must

carve out a place for herself,

defend her space and disappear

in the mosaic of the swamp and bush.

There is another leopard here,

resting comfortably in the warm embrace

of an ancient baobab tree.

Leopards have climbed this same tree for over

But now, this leopard is queen here.

And this is Legadema's mother,

a strong willed leopardess that tolerates

no intruders in her piece of Africa.

None that is, but this male.

He asks no permission.

He's the dominant leopard from

the burnt ebony tree to the south,

a huge beast who prowls through her territory,

and those of six other females as well.

He is a scar-faced survivor,

hunter of at least 36 species in his range.

Few are immune from his...

...special talents.

Variety is the key to his success.

Specialist hunters die

when their prey dies out,

but leopards simply switch

to their next victim.

As a result, leopards stalk the forests from

the tip of Africa to the eastern edge of Asia,

from coasts to mountain tops.

The most prolific great cat on Earth.

It all started for this

cub with a unique spot,

three years ago to the day.

It was a passionate and explosive affair

with snarling exposed teeth

and fur flying.

When leopards mate, their intensity

shudders through the forest.

The couple shun food for a week

and mate almost continuously.

And then quite suddenly,

they part company for months, even years.

"Legadema" is the local setswana name for the

lightning that rolls in at that time of the year.

It means

"light from the sky or above".

from the burnt ebony tree...

...became a father.

Legadema was born.

She first emerged into the sunlight

at 8th days,

senses alive, bristling with interest.

Her eyes locked on something wonderful

and enticing straight away.

She ventured out... like an explorer.

From that day on,

the forest would be changed.

Every leopard needs to learn quickly

how to climb with confidence,

to master heights for hunting

and to escape danger.

It takes time.

And from the very beginning, a cub must draw

on that deep inner instinct as a predator,

to stalk, hunt and kill.

For the survivors, it is hardwired.

The first few days

will always determine their odds.

Legadema's first attack was a good start.

Her intense focus on the kill - important,

her inherited technique almost perfect,

but she lacked something vital.

She was still too innocent to understand

the obvious signs of danger.

Her mother knew them intimately.

They have attacked before.

Twice, they killed her cubs.

Daily, they dog her every move,

waiting for yet another macabre free meal.

Each time she dropped her guard,

they had swooped down.

Now, even though she was vicious in her defense,

they'd been found.

The den revealed.

It would just be a matter of time

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