“You can lie out on a leafy branch and look like sunshine sifting through the leaves; and you can lie right across the centre of a path and look like nothing in particular,” the Ethiopian told the Leopard. “Think of that and purr!” – Rudyard Kipling.
Kipling was on to something… In his Just So story of “How the Leopard Got his Spots”, the Ethiopian endows his feline friend with spots as camouflage for life in the trees, and on a recent trip to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, I can vouch first-hand that this coat indeed makes him disappear from view.
Seeing cats in the wild is difficult, but especially leopards, who are notorious for their slinky stealthy solitude. They don’t court attention in the same way that lions do – partly because they are solitary creatures and partly because they are also great climbers and prefer to sit in the shade of a lofty perch wherever possible. However, their laid back attitude defies their devilish spirit and sharp eyes.
So imagine my surprise when our guide suddenly turned the Jeep announcing “Leopard – The tail hanging from the tree….Can you see?
The swinging tail had given him away – and my heart leapt in excitement. As we drew closer – the young male stood up and seemed to pose for our cameras and then settled down for a cat nap…having gorged himself on a recent kill.
He seemed indifferent to us and indeed the master-of-all he surveyed from his treetop domain.
This conservancy is a huge success story with over 65,000 acres of private land which are home to many species, notably the endangered black rhino. Indeed on our way to the airstrip for our flight out we also encountered another famous name – Elvis the blind, orphaned black rhino who has been hand-reared successfully and returned to the wild. He sniffed the air and recognised our guide as a friendly smell and trotted over to the jeep to say hello.
And in the words of the other Elvis – all I have to say is “Thank you and Goodnight” Kenya for a truly amazing and humbling ten days of safari.