What a roller-coaster of emotions I think, for all of us yesterday.
Having heard monkeys calling in the drainage line opposite Gowrie cutline during AM safari, I was sure there was a predator around, so I quickly responded. As we approached the area, I could see them in a tree looking directly below. I followed their gaze to a bush and to our excitement, there was a leopard sitting, looking at us. It was Induna. He quickly disappeared, so we pulled into the dry riverbed in the hope of finding him again. The monkeys were still calling so we knew he couldn't be far.
Approaching the bush, I could hear squeaking and it dawned on me, he was in the middle of catching something. He eventually came out of the bush with his prize, and it became clear why the Vervet monkeys were still calling, he had caught a baby monkey. As humans, this immediately changed our perspective on the situation. Even though they are distantly related to humans, they are still a primate and there is an affinity we share with them. To our surprise he hadn't killed it. In fact from what I could see there was not even a scratch on it.
Induna started to play with the monkey, as a domestic cat plays with a mouse. This helps cats especially young cats, which is what Induna is, to practice and perfect skills, as well as build muscles. It was not easy to watch, and was heart wrenching at times. But one thing we have to remember is Induna is a leopard and does not think like a human. To him it was food. To us, a living baby monkey. If you think of cats at play, they are interested in anything that moves and squeaks. To him, this was something of interest that he could eat.
I was amazed the monkey didn't look injured or scratched and there were times I thought it had managed to get away. I was also hoping if it stayed quiet and hidden, maybe Induna would tire of it and walk away, or if not at least end it swiftly. The monkey would have been in shock by this stage, with adrenaline in it's body and being young, I doubt it really comprehended what was happening. It just had an instinct to try and get back to it's mother for safety. For humans, closure is very important and I felt we needed that closure after such an intense sighting. It came with Induna taking the monkey, it's body going limp from a quick bite and walking away to feed.
One thought crossed my mind, was he trying to entice an adult out of the tree? I have never heard of it before and that is why even though difficult to watch, it was interesting, as I have never seen or heard of this before with monkeys. I was in awe of what we had witnessed and with mixed emotions. From extreme sadness for the loss of a young life, amazement how, in a strange way, gentle Induna was being with it, to excitement to have been able to share this with you all. It is a behaviour that does go on in the wild and even in our homes, but it is a behaviour that is not witnessed very often in the wild.
Leopards have to eat and I think part of the difficulty watching this sighting was because it involved a monkey and it was a baby, something we are not use to seeing leopards eat. Had a rodent or an antelope been involved instead, prey we are use to leopards catching, we may have been less shocked by Indunas behaviour.
As Karula's cubs grow, we may witness this behaviour again and it is part of nature, cubs need to learn to become efficient predators. WE do not enjoy seeing an animal loose it's life and sights like this can be disturbing and difficult to watch but it is still nature. To be able to share this and to help people understand why it happens is very important and for that I am glad WE could share this with you.
Written by Tara