A Leopard’s Call

I like to end the day relaxing in front of my tent doing a few yoga stretches, enjoying the silence of the camp, the evening song of the birds, and marveling in the feeling of the last of the rays of the winter sun before it disappears for the day. On hearing the alarm calls of the Nyala that hang around the camp, I stopped for a minute, listening, holding my breath, to see if I could hear what had disturbed them. And then…

The unmistakable call of a Leopard.

Now how can I describe the call of a Leopard to someone who has never heard it?

It’s a captivating, deep, low-pitched, hoarse rasping sound. Think someone using a saw to saw through a thick piece of wood.

A Leopard's Call
Photographs © Christoff Els

Leopards are normally elusive, stealthy, silent animals so hearing their call is something special. If you are ever lucky enough to be near a Leopard when they call, I swear that you can feel the vibrations in the air. It can’t help but make you smile especially when you know that that this magical, mystical animal isn’t far from where you are.

As I moved towards the camp’s central area, EcoTraining Volunteer Danny, who had been busy trying to light a fire was trying to catch people’s attention. Out of the corner of his eye, he had seen something moving at the edge of the river bed, the flick of an ear had given the animal away. I and some of the students quietly moved down to the fire pit and then we saw him, Savo, a BIG male Leopard. As he moved out into the dry river bed 40m from where we stood, we marveled at his size, his sleek muscular body, the amber color of his coat, the black rosettes that give him the ability to camouflage, in short, the perfect elegant predator.

A Leopard's Call - Mashatu Tere leopard
Photographs © Tere Abumohor

He paused looking at the Nyala who was wandering about in the riverbed to the left-hand side of us and then he turned and looked straight at us, taking our breath away. He continued to slowly cross the riverbed and disappeared behind some granite rocks.

For the next half hour, we could hear him moving on the opposite side of the river bed, his call and the alarm calls of various Antelope echoing in the starlight.

Did you know that you can also use your sense of smell to detect a Leopard in the African bush? When walking in the bush you might detect the delicious smell of buttered popcorn, yummy! If you smell this then it is a sign that a Leopard has been around that area recently. This is because leopards use urine to mark their territories and their urine contains a chemical that to us smells like buttered popcorn.

Learn the facts: The Illusive Leopard

One of the most sought-after animals when on Safari. The illusive leopard. Every now and again we are privileged to get a look at these majestic mammals during the day. The least social of the big cats, but undoubtedly the most beautiful. Black and golden, the rosette markings are distinctive when identifying a leopard. Watch this video as David Havemann tells us all we need to know what leopards.

About the Author: 

Emma Summers is an EcoTraining Camp Manager at Selati Game Reserve.