The Elusive Kgalagadi Leopards

Of all the animals in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park,KTP,  the Leopard must surely be one of the animals that is highest on most visitors wish list to see and photograph.  This is certainly the same for us on each visit and we have been very fortunate over the years to have seen a number of different Leopards.

Tsamma crossing the road back to the tree where her Springbok kill was stashed.  Between 13th and 14th borehole.

Tsamma crossing the road back to the tree where her Springbok kill was stashed. Between 13th and 14th borehole.

The work done by Dr Matthew Schurch in putting together a Kgalagadi Leopard Identification guide, with the aid of KTP faithfuls, has certainly personalised the whole KTP Leopard experience for us.  You can download the Leopard guide here:   It is regularly updated so make sure your get the latest version before your trip and download it onto your iPhone or iPad or smart phone for easy access.

You can also visit the Facebook page here:

According to the official SAN Parks map of the KTP, there are estimated to be around 150 Leopards in the park.

Rooiputs after she crossed the sniffed our car, crossed the road and lay in the grass.  Near the Rooiputs waterhole.

Rooiputs after she crossed the sniffed our car, crossed the road and lay in the grass. Near the Rooiputs waterhole.

With the work Matthew is doing and the sightings being reported regularly I would be very surprised if the actual population in the park is in excess of 60.  Currently there are 39 Leopards that have been seen and photographed on the SA side of the park in the last 2 years, 3 Leopards on the Botswana side and there are 24 historical Leopards.  As the Nossob and Auob river beds are key to all animals for their water supply, there is a very good chance that all the Leopards around these two river beds would be seen from time to time by sharp eyed visitors.

As you will see from the SAN Parks forum and other KTP Leopard images, you don’t not have to be out all night to spot Leopards, although your chances are probably better, there are daily sightings of Leopards in the park during daylight hours.  If you start to understand the various territories that the Leopards stick to and you are out  early in the morning you have a good chance of seeing one of these elusive cats.

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N!xau feeding on a Wildebeest a few meters away from the road.

N!xau feeding on a Wildebeest a few meters away from the road.

Having mentioned early morning drives, on this last trip we had a Leopard, N!xau, feed on a Wildebeest a mere 4 meters from the road in the middle of the day, Miera was under a thorn tree also with a kill meters from the road.  We also saw Tsamma drag a Springbok carcass around 60 meters along the Auob river bed to hide it under a tree.

We obviously have a long way to go to see all the Leopards in the park, but now that we have seen a few the pressure to see Leopard is off.  Now its to see and photograph a Leopard stalk and catch a prey in good light of course 🙂

The Leopards we have seen over the years are:

Maja in a tree next to the road at Houmoed.

Maja in a tree next to the road at Houmoed.

  • Khomani – 4 July ’09
  • Maja – 31 March ’10
  • No. 12 – 11 June ’10
  • Twin – 11 June ’10
  • Cagn – 11 Dec ’11
  • Miera – 14 Dec ’11
  • Rooibrak – 11 Dec ’11
  • Auchterloni Female – 11 Dec’11
  • Rooiputs  – 25 March ’12
  • Tsamma – 10 Dec ’13
  • Tshidi – 16 Dec ’13
  • N!xau – 14 Dec ’13
Cagn photographed near the Auchterloni picnic spot.

Cagn photographed near the Auchterloni picnic spot.

In 2011 we first saw a young female Leopard in the company of an older Leopard who turned out to be the Auchterloni female.  As this youngster had not been given a name yet, I was honoured to have been able to name the female Leopard.  Where do you start to find an appropriate name?, well you Google and when you Google Bushman or San names you don’t get to much information.  I eventually found a reference to a Bushman mythological deity called Cagn who is a all seeing being who comes out at night in the form of Praying Mantis.

One of two cubs spotted alone in the Auob river bed around the Monro area.

One of two cubs spotted alone in the Auob river bed around the Monro area.

The other Leopard I named previously was “Number 12”.  A not so Bushman name, but named after the very prominent figure 12 above its left eye.  It was one of 2 cubs we saw just south of Auchterloni and presumably the cubs of the Auchterloni female, but haven’t been seen in the last 2 years.

The Auchterloni female with her cub Cagn south of Auchterloni.

The Auchterloni female with her cub Cagn south of Auchterloni.

Needless to say that over the years the quality of the individual sightings have varied from distant to very close and my own equipment has also been upgraded so some of the images will be better than other.  We have also seen some of the above individuals on subsequent occasions making it really special to see then again.  It is nice to be able to match your Leopard images with those in the Leopard guide and confirm which Leopard you have seen.  There is always the hope that you see a new Leopard that hasn’t been reported yet.

Tshidi drinking from the Urikaruus waterhole.

Tshidi drinking from the Urikaruus waterhole.

Khomani, our 1st Leopard sighting, marking his territory near Dalkieth.

Khomani, our 1st Leopard sighting, marking his territory near Dalkieth.

Visit my WEBSITE for more images of the Kgalagadi………..tbc

Rooibrak spotted near Auchterloni.

Rooibrak spotted near Auchterlon

Miera photographed on the road above 14th Borehole.

Miera photographed on the road above 14th Borehole.

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6 thoughts on “The Elusive Kgalagadi Leopards

  1. Neal, thank you so much. This was very informative and very detailed. The leopard is my favourite animal. They are so beautiful. Thanks

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