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Impala Plays with Leopards

A female leopard in the MalaMala Game Reserve snatches a young impala lamb and turns this potential meal into a training exercise for her young cubs.

34-year-old field guide Michael Botes was fortunate enough to share his sighting of a female leopard training and honing her young cubs’ hunting skills.

“The Nkoveni female leopard and her two female cubs were walking through a clearing on the MalaMala game reserve. The cubs were in a very playful mood, as always, and were following their mother from a fair distance. As they reached the bushline, the Nkoveni female walked towards a small thicket and pulled out a day-old impala lamb that had been hidden there by its mother.”

Impala Plays with 3 Leopards in MalaMala Game Reserve

“She did not kill the lamb but gently carried it towards her cubs and gave the live impala to them. This was done in order to teach the cubs how to hunt. The larger of the two cubs wasted no time in grabbing the impala from the Nkoveni female and carrying it up a tree. Her instinct compelled her to secure her carcass away from her mother and sister.”

Big cats will frequently seize any opportunity to teach their young survival skills. Sightings of this nature have been recorded with cheetahs and lions. However, this may be a first-time sighting of leopards interacting in this manner.

Impala Plays with Leopards

“The only problem was the impala was still alive, and once up the tree it began kicking and came tumbling down to the ground. It barely touched the ground before the other cub swooped in and grabbed it. The cub then ran some distance away. What followed was 40 minutes of both cubs taking turns trying to kill the impala. Eventually, one of the cubs took hold of the neck and bit down, and the lamb died.”

Impala Plays with Leopards

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“All three leopards then started feeding on the carcass. Tearing through the soft skin on the underbelly and then completely picking the tiny carcass clean. It was a heartbreaking sight to watch but also very interesting to see how leopards teach their cubs to hunt.”

–WATCH–

Leopards subdue their prey by biting their prey’s neck and suffocating it by restricting its airway. After a kill, leopards are frequently seen taking their prey into the safety of nearby trees. This is done to keep other predators and scavengers, such as lions and hyenas, away from the prize.

Impala Plays with Leopards
Feeding time

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