Looking into the Eyes of a Whole Lotta African Leopards

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Like in all animals the pupil of a leopard’s eye constricts or dilates according to the amount of light that enters the eyes, with both pupils normally dilating in dim light and constricting in bright light. The eyes are the window to the soul and provide one with feelings of emotion and feeling. As a wildlife photographer, I like many others, try to capture a sparkle or glint in the eyes of the subject. The eyes of leopards are incredible and truly tell a tale – an intimate portrayal of self.

I decided to put together a piece showcasing a series of close ups of some of our most famous leopard’s eyes. The intention was to portray something a little different about these magnificent cats. However, in doing so I have stumbled upon an interesting issue. An issue, that I am not sure that I know the answer to! I am going to throw this one out to the readers and ask for your opinions.  Have a look at what we uncovered…

Camp Pan Male, Aug 2012

Tamboti Female, Feb 2012

Nottens Female, March 2011

Nyeleti 4:3 Young Male, May 2012

So far all is well. Now have a look at the next two leopards…

Maxabeni 3:2 Young Male and the Vomba Female

Look closely and you will notice how the most recent pictures show that the pupils of both these leopard’s are different sizes.

Maxabeni 3:2 Young Male, June 2010

Maxabeni 3:2 Young Male, March 2011

Maxabeni 3:2 young Male, Sept 2012

Vomba Female, Sept 2011

Vomba Female, March 2012- Rich Laburn

Vomba Female March 2012 by Rich Laburn

Vomba Female, Sept 2012 – Irene Nathanson

Once I had noticed this I have started paying close attention to the eyes of the various leopards we encounter. So far I have only noticed this anomaly in these two individuals. I can assure you that it is not the light or the angle that the photograph is taken. Their pupils truly are different sizes. So the question is why is this so, what is wrong and why has this become more pronounced as they age? The Maxabeni Young Male is a four year old so it can’t be age. Is it due to a fight, a wound or a growth? Is this impeding their eye sight and thus their hunting ability?

I tried ‘googling’ the question and managed to get lots of hits, all based on domestic cats, on an issue diagnosed asAnisocoria. Now, I am out of my depth here and am hoping that if we have any veterinarians or ophthalmologists  reading this, they may be so kind as to shed some light on this issue.

Written and photographed by Adam Bannister

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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