The DGR is well known as a Big Five Reserve, i.e. lions, elephants, buffalo, leopard and rhino (black and white) roam freely in the reserve, where nature must be allowed to take its course. This is a sad story that will illustrate the challenges and the unexpected turn of events that are part and parcel of the process of conservation of endangered species.
Whilst we know, from tangible evidence, that leopards were present since the inception of the area that is well known as the Dinokeng Game Reserve, these big cats are instinctively wary of human presence and they were rarely sighted.
Our efforts to introduce more leopards into the reserve go back a couple of years long with a carefully managed process. But there is no predicting what nature will dictate.
We face the reality that one predator group will not take kindly to the arrival of another predator group in their space, in particular the kings, the lions, more so when they are protecting their young. We currently have young cubs in both lion prides in the DGR.
Our rangers were on a patrol to check on the leopard female (Zella) when they were distressed to discover her carcass in the bush. From the evidence of injuries on the carcass and considering that lions were known to be in that proximity and from the physical signs observed in the disturbance to the surrounding vegetation, it is most probable that our leopard was attacked and killed by the lions. There were no signs of human poaching activity around the carcass. Nature had prevailed.
Our male leopard is doing well. He is moving around the area freely and we are back to the drawing boards to start the process all over again to find him a new mate. Meanwhile we will continue to keep a close eye on him while we start the process of finding a suitable new partner for him.