NAIROBI PARK DIARY

Leo Pardus: Secretive and elusive

It is fascinating to spot a leopard, let alone see it in action

In Summary

• Reports 'guestimate' the park's leopard numbers to be about 20, but it is hard to tell

Nguruman on tree
Nguruman on tree
Image: GARETH JONES

It was early morning on a beautiful day as we drove slowly through the park, appreciating the sunrise and God’s wonderful creation. As we drove along the western boundary over rocky terrain, a small pack of black-backed jackals appeared in the road.

Clearly not interested in us, they made high-pitched, almost whining sounds and very alertly looked across the bushveld in the direction of the Mbagathi River gorge.

I guessed that there was a spotted predator like a leo pardus somewhere nearby. The jackals withdrew to the opposite side of the road and quieted down as I drove slowly forward, while scanning the long grass and thick bushy area on the river side of the road.

Just then, a herd of Impala about 150m away began to snort loudly as they all faced in a single direction, looking very alert. I knew that a big cat had to be nearby. Then I saw it, deep inside the middle of a large scrub over 200m away was a catlike shape.

We looked with binoculars and, wow! It was a leopard. It remained still for a few minutes, and then began to walk in the long grass towards the road. I decided to reverse to the position where the jackals were last seen. Then suddenly, the leopard appeared and jumped up the side of a tall tree for a short while, as the jackals became very stressed. The leopard then jumped down and disappeared into the long grass again.

Leopards are a rare sighting in the Nairobi park, as they are mostly nocturnal. Various reports “guestimate” their numbers to be possibly about 20. However, it is difficult to estimate as they are so secretive and elusive by nature.

If you are looking for somewhere to go to “escape the maddening crowd”, then the Nairobi Park is such a place. Relax and let nature come to you.