Although leopards are often considered nocturnal animals, it is not uncommon for visitors to the Maasai Mara on the banks of the Olare Oruk River to see them during the day. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)
Young leopards may seem like formidable hunters, but they still have a lot to learn. In the Maasai Mara savannah, on the banks of the Olare Orok River, Mark Seth Lender, Living on Earth explorer-in-residence, followed the learning curve of a young leopard.
CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.
DOERING: And I’m Jenni Doering.
Leopards are the only big cat species that live in both tropical rainforests and dry regions, and in either environment, young leopards may seem like formidable hunters, but they still have a lot to learn. In the Maasai Mara savannah, on the banks of the Olare Orok River, Mark Seth Lender, Living on Earth explorer-in-residence, followed the learning curve of a young leopard.
LENDER: The cat with the spotted fur is awake.
And open your mouth.
This shows the long canine teeth.
A comfortable yawn that ends with that little cat hiss on your breath as the jaws click shut. All the time, walking, along the jagged lip of the gorge.
He sniffs the ground (with his eyes closed) and sees, on the screen of his mind, things that no human mind’s eye has ever seen:
Who and What came this way and When in the dimension of Time. And from a lingering trail of sweat and the scent of fur, how thirsty they were. Several steps later she stops again, at a mark in the dust, watching, taking note. Here that Same Animal got into the ravine. Cat remembers the watering hole along the direction of the creature’s travel. ah yes. A place to wait a few hours from now as the darkness pours in. He continues, as he gains knowledge and experience.
For this Young Leopard there is still learning to do and the growth that goes with it.
Now, in a clump of tall grass, he finds the spot where one of his own has deliberately left his mark. that he has all his attention. Inhaling like a tall sommelier against the palate, he discerns the terroir, the delicacy of the maker and whether he is ready and good or not yet great. And other unimaginable things for you.
He licks his lips.
He licks between his toes.
Then follow the slope to the bottom.
And to the other side.
And on the other side.
And he advances through the dry undergrowth to the flat, rust-and-lead-colored granite surface of the outcropping.
and sit down
Right in front of me.
Cat in the Spotted Coat wraps its tail around its fluffy cat feet and looks around. She’s gone to sleep. She rolls over onto her back. She yawns her Big Cat Yawn and looks upside down at me. “Pet me. Pet my head. Scrrrrratch behind my ears. Rub my belly and I will snore yourrrrrrr. Pay no attention to the team behind the curtain of my black velvet lips. Ignorrrrrre the razors called claws at the end of my paws, I just want to -“
Cat in the Spotted Coat suddenly freezes:
Blue wildebeest, two three knots within a hundred meters.
He stands up, shrugs, and with that stealthy cat gait he slides under my truck. See. To plan your imagined SNEAKATTACK!
As the blue wildebeest turn their heads. And look back. The forward posture and ready gaze giving an unequivocal answer:
“Who do you think you’re kidding?”
DOERING: That’s Living on Earth Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender.
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