I have been uncharacteristically quiet over the numerous postings on social media about the leopard attack which has received such outpourings of emotion.
Now that things are a tad quieter, let’s examine this event in detail, and let you all in on a few home-truths…..
First and foremost must be mention of totally irresponsible reporting. Reporting that feeds emotions rather than the facts. One newspaper even went so far as to refer to the animal as a tiger.
Of course, people lap all this up, sitting back in their comfortable homes, looking at expensive computer equipment and making some of the most inane comments I have ever seen.
Look into the human aspect first.
The leopard was at the edge of the bush, fairly close to the road. The only unusual aspect to this is that leopard are secretive, cautious and very shy. Perhaps the driver should have realised something was amiss at this stage, but so many animals in parks and reserves are so well habituated to vehicles that he didn’t consider anything unusual.
I would also point out that the guides and rangers doing this sort of job are highly trained, very experienced individuals. To ridicule him on public forums without any idea of the circumstances is doing a dedicated man a disservice. He doesn’t deserve all the abuse heaped upon him.
These individuals have dedicated their lives, for minimal remuneration, not only to give their clients a memorable bush experience, but also work tirelessly in the bush, looking out for poaching incidents, managing the ecological aspects of the area they work in and ensuring the overall well-being of the animals they care about.
So he stopped to give his clients a rare photo opportunity.
The driver did nothing wrong.
Then the doo-doo really hit the fan.
The leopard advanced and attacked the driver through the open side of the door, grabbing his arm and trying to pull him from the vehicle.
Clients all tried to discourage the animal by throwing their camera bags and other objects at it, to no avail.
A quick-thinking visitor in another vehicle drove towards the animal, opening his door in an attempt to dislodge the leopard. A brave man. The leopard could easily have turned and attacked the driver through the open door.
After much shouting, throwing of objects and attempts to dislodge the animal by using the car, the guide reversed his vehicle and the leopard released him. Enraged, the animal continued with its attack, trying to climb up on the bonnet of the car and cause more havoc.
In desperation, the guide drove over the animal’s rear section, putting it out of action long enough for all to escape. The leopard moved back into the bush.
Rangers then came to the location and after examining the leopard, euthanized it. NOT because of the attack, but because the animal was in terrible condition and was obviously suffering badly.
It appeared that the animal had been in a fight, probably with another leopard and had been severely injured, so badly that it was unable to hunt.
The behaviour was totally uncharacteristic of leopard.
So why has the ranger/guide been showered with so much abuse? Why all the calls for him to be fired? Why all the calls to ban open vehicles? Why the calls to close the reserve?
Because the armchair warriors all know best, that’s why. All the people who have probably never had the pleasure of travelling through African wilderness areas and who have no idea about life in the bush. They probably don’t even walk barefoot across their own lawns, let alone go for a walk in the rain!
At any given moment during the day, in East, Central and Southern Africa, there are probably thousands of open viewing vehicles travelling slowly thought the bush observing and photographing our spectacular wildlife. None of them have been attacked. Ever.
We had six open vehicles at Nokuthula, traveling regularly through big-five country. The only encounter we ever experienced were cheetah jumping onto the bonnet to use the car as a really useful mobile vantage point. At no time were they considered to be a threat to our human cargo.
Now examine the leopard. In the one photo of it lying on its side, it is so thin that it could easily be mistaken for a cheetah.
It is obviously in desperately bad condition. The fact that it was euthanized is a blessing for this particular animal. The unwritten rule of the bush is to let nature take its course, but who in their right mind could allow an animal in such dreadful and probably painful condition to die a truly horrific death as it starved slowly to death.
There’s altogether too much sensationalism on social media.
People make inane comments without thinking the situation through.
And all the others follow, each trying to outdo the other with comments that are blatant untruths and which offer ridiculous ‘solutions’.
And just for your information, the ranger is doing fine, not that anyone asked after him, but I thought you might like to know.
And the vets and support staff shed a tear or two at the terrible suffering this poor animal had to go through before being mercifully put out of its misery.
This is not a zoo. There are no cages. There are no tame animals. Game vehicles and the wildlife co-exist, neither harming the other. This has been the status-quo for many many years without incident, yet one isolated attack of this nature immediately brings down a torrent of invective.
Please think things through before you all shout, scream and perform about man’s inhumanity.
It wasn’t the case at all.