Ever Wonder How Old a Leopard is When He Makes His First “Kill?”

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The lady in the back row of my jeep thought she was asking a straightforward question “Adam, at what age does a leopard make it’s first kill ?” I needed a bit more clarity in the question before I put my neck on the line. I asked her if by ‘kill’ she meant something like a lizard, bird, squirrel, or something larger and more substantial? Her husband prompted me by suggesting that she was referring to a kill of substance…

“When will they kill their first impala?” she asked.

A great question and one which I answered with some hesitation. Over the last four years I have learnt time and time again that nothing out here happens by the book. I explained that there would obviously be exceptions, but that I reckoned that it must be sometime around it’s first birthday that a leopard may get lucky and bring down an impala. Secretly, I thought this was pretty young and the second I said a year I kind of wished I had said 14- 15 months. I backed my answer up by swallowing deep and replaying a story I had been told of the legendary Maxabeni Female catching an impala at 11 months of age.

She seemed satisfied with the answer and we carried on with the drive. I kid you not, but half an hour later, we saw the one Ximpalapala young female leopard moments after she had just killed a young impala. Adrenalin raced as we watched this young female leopard hoist the kill, only to descend again with it and run through the clearing.

One of the three Ximpalapala youngsters with her kill up in a Marula Tree

Granted it was a young impala, but proportionality it was large. After all this leopard is small. I sat transfixed, gob-smacked over what I had just seen. The leopard disappeared from view and the excited guests in the car slowly settled down. It was at this moment that the lady in the back row coughed…

“Adam, how old was that leopard?”

“Just under 9 months old.” I replied.

Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
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