‘Rarely does a portrait reveal the fluid grace of a leopard in motion’
Image Credit: Photograph by Konrad Wothe/NHM
The Hunter by Konrad Wothe
Leopards are among the most popular portrait subjects for photographers. But since leopards normally sleep during the day, most portraits show them reclining, usually draped over a branch.
Rarely does a portrait reveal the fluid grace of a leopard in motion. To create such a shot required planning.
The photographer stayed for more than a week in Tanzania’s Serengeti national park and got to know the leopard’s hunting area and where she was likely to rest. He also knew she would climb down from her sleeping tree at dusk to begin hunting.
This was in the days of film, the 1990s, when a picture could be taken after sundown only with the use of a low speed and a wide aperture to capture the last of the light.
Working with rather than against the inevitable grain that would result, the photographer enhanced the sense of movement by panning the camera along with the stride of the leopard, keeping the focus on her eye.
The result was a painterly representation and a prize‑winning picture that has stood the test of time.
The 13-year-old lion Zhaku looks out from inside a transportation cage being loaded into a truck by the animal-welfare association Four Paws at Tirana Zoo in Albania in May, 2019, as part of a transfer, along with two other lions, to the Felida Big Cat Center in the Netherlands.
The three lions, rescued by Four Paws in October from a zoo where they were kept in deplorable conditions, were transported to the Netherlands, where they will be placed in an establishment imitating their natural habitat.
Image Credit: Photograph by Gent Shkullaku / AFP / Getty
Where there are people, expect to find few leopards. That’s because the apex predator suffers from man hunting for their pelts, from habitat loss and fragmentation, and from retaliatory killings due to real or imagined losses of human or livestock lives.
Similarly, where there are tigers, expect to find few leopards. In this case, it’s because the two big cats compete for the same prey, and in most cases the tigers are socially dominant to the leopards.
Despite the odds stacked against them, leopards are actually quite widespread, ranging from Africa up through the Middle East and into southern and Southeast Asia.
So how do leopards manage to eke out their existence when they’re forced to contend with competition from other cats and a mix of aggression and habitat loss from humans?
New research from National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center researcher Neil Carter and colleagues suggests that leopards employ different strategies to deal with the different sorts of threats posted by humans and by tigers.
The study took place in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, which contains leopards and tigers as well as a veritable buffet of prey species on which the cats regularly dine: spotted deer, muntjac, hog deer, sambar deer, gaur (also known as Indian bison), and wild boar.
Carter collected his data primarily by using camera traps in the dry seasons of 2010 and 2011, deployed both within the park and within a forested area just outside the park in the “buffer zone” between the park and human settlements.