There’s a certain excitement surrounding the guides at Africa on Foot when an unknown leopard (or a known leopard, for that matter) is spotted during a game drive. Questions asking ‘who is it?’, ‘do we known him/her?’, and ‘where was it seen?’ fill the air as soon as the guides put their heads together back at camp. These solitary, elusive cats are among the most sought after animals on safari. They are at the top of guests’ check lists, and they become a source of thrill and excitement for the rangers who get to know these territorial animals over time. Last week, 4 different leopards were seen in one day in the Klaserie: 2 mother-and-cub pairs, one being Ross Dam and her male cub, and the other being an ‘unknown’.
At Africa on Foot, Greg, Mike, and Kevin pulled up their ‘leopard ID kit’, consisting of folders of images of various leopards seen in the area; close-ups of whisker patterns, facial features, and unique rosettes, which give each one its identity. In these folders are photo albums of Zero, Marula Mafasi, Ross Dam, Cleo, Rhulani, among others. The guys analyse the footage captured during game drive, pausing and rewinding and studying this unknown female’s facial features. A tattered right ear triggers Kevin’s memory, and they quickly refer to images of that unidentified leopard that killed an impala and lost it to a hyena right outside Africa on Foot camp not long ago.
Bingo! After some deliberation, it is decided that the leopard seen with a subadult cub in the dead of night is indeed the female that made a kill nearby. Now that it seems clear this leopard has her territory within the camp’s traverse, it is possible to name her for easier identification in the future. Everyone puts in their suggestions, and eventually Greg’s suggestion of “White Rock” gets the majority of the vote. This is descriptive of the area she has been sighted in, and therefore, we deem it an appropriate name.