One minute you are tiptoeing across some mud looking for your next meal and the next…you are almost riding a hippo! This is what happened to an intrepid leopard in the Kruger National Park in South Africa and thanks to some excellent camera work we get to share the moment.
At first, we see the leopard carefully pick its way across what looks like a dried-up watering hole or river. The big cat’s paws sink into the mud as it makes its way across the unstable surface. Leopards are very nimble and agile animals but they can weigh up to 165 pounds and this does not look like the most comfortable terrain for this big cat.
Leopards are not that picky about what they eat and at first, we do not know what our muddy hunter is trying to get at. These spotted predators will eat over 90 species of prey, including everything from baboons to dung beetles. They are also very partial to fish and we soon discover that it is a poor marooned fish that our leopard is hunting. This very flexible diet has allowed the leopard to survive in areas where other large predators would struggle. Their eclectic tastes have allowed this species to thrive in a wide variety of ecological niches – they simply eat whatever is available.
When it comes to hunting styles, leopards would be described as a patient stalker – and this is what the individual in this vid is doing…until it gets a big shock. As your attention is focused on the leopard, you may notice the surface of the mud moving a little but you get little warning of what is about to happen. Suddenly, a giant hippo emerges from the mud looking none too pleased that they have been disturbed from their wallowing. The leopard is just as startled as we are and leaps backward but the hippo rotates to keep a close eye on the predator. With the leopard safely out of the way, the hippo gets back to snoozing with a huge sigh.
The footage then cuts to the same location but several hours later once night has fallen. The determined leopard is back in the mud looking for a meal and this time the hunting trip is successful. It’s typical for leopards to hunt at night – they have excellent nocturnal vision. This particular fish may have been a bit larger than the leopard had thought and the journey back across the mud is not an easy one! At one point, all four paws sink into the mud and the leopard’s belly is dragging across the surface. Eventually, our friend reaches firmer ground and can find somewhere suitable to devour their (very muddy) meal.
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