Many of you may have heard, a leopard male legend is no more, having been shot in the past week at age about 8 or 9 years. Much has been written about the how and why he lost his life. We will not add to that. "The truth will out" as the saying goes. We can only hope that this is simply the result of human wildlife conflict and no more. In paying tribute to this majestic animal let us look at the little we know of his interesting life. It is reliably known that Hukumuri, as be came to be known, was born in the Crocodile Bridge area of the Kruger National Park. That can be called pretty much the South Eastern corner of this vast place. There he spent his early life with his mother and learnt the skill of survival as a leopard, avoiding danger, hunting, keeping your kill and just staying alive. From there, when the time was right and as a young adult, he would have left his mother with the aim of establishing a territory where he would live as a adult if he could, or leave for elsewhere. After a time, he was seen often in the Northern Sabi Sand. No one really knows how he got there but it is some 65km away from his birthplace so he certainly did travel! It is not accurately known where he may have settled beforehand but he got pretty far. It is here that he became a star, so to speak. Many got to love this leopard and he became known the world over due to his appearances on the Safari Live and Wild Earth TV broadcasts. He was a rather distinctive leopard being substantial and having a rather full face and being quite mobile. He is said to have sired cubs and certainly got into a few territorial battles. During 2018, not witnessed by anyone, he was seen with a serious eye injury. Images were captured and expert opinions sought and soon enough it was concluded that he would lose his right eye, which he did. After a healing process, it looked like a glassy blueish eye. As nature would have it, this tough animal managed to live normally after that. He hunted with success and continued to live. In fact his eye gave him a rather different appeal, such is the wonder of nature. He was known as a traveller, rather elusive and well known for fondness for hunting warthogs in their burrows, with many successes.
Our own history with him began poorly. Once we had become aware of him, he proved elusive and when we tracked him, he would often have left the area where we could find him. After the loss of his eye, we thought he may have lost his photographic appeal. We were wrong!! In mid 2019, one early morning, we were alerted to him and there, followed by the Safari Live team, he was!!! An unforgettable experience!!!! We spent a great time with him. We saw him again in 2020, this time in the early evening after light rain. He was very mobile and after we thought we had lost him, we saw him settled on a termite mound where we spent a fair time with him, into a time called blue hour after sunset. There we witnessed a hyena arrive and warily leave as he just watched. Suddenly his demeanour and behaviour changed as he began to stalk prey we could not see. Lights went off as we avoided interfering in the hunt......and we lost him. Leopards can be SO elusive.
We pay tribute to this exceptional animal. He has etched his memory in our minds. RIP big guy, roam wild, rom free where you are and how we hope you have left one that we will see to look just like you.