After climbing a tree to retrieve its prey, a leopard pauses to eat.
After climbing a tree to retrieve its prey, a leopard pauses to eat.
Photograph by Sergey Gorshkov

Dramatic Images Show Cannibal Leopard and Prey

Territorial leopards will occasionally kill and eat their younger competition, but it's rare to glimpse the act firsthand.

In shocking photos, a leopard can be seen pulling another leopard’s carcass out of a tree, presumably to eat it.

There are many examples of leopard cannibalism in the wild, and experts speculate on the likely causes. In the most common scenario, older male leopards will kill younger ones to ward off competition and stake their territory.

The evolutionary reason behind killing other leopards, particularly cubs, is clear, according to Luke Hunter, president of the big cat conservation group Panthera, which collaborates with National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative.

“They can’t afford to be stepdads,” Hunter explained in an earlier interview with National Geographic. With fewer younger males, females must mate with the older territorial leopards.

Despite the apparent brutality of leopard cannibalism, territorial leopards actually form long-lasting familial bonds with their mates and cubs.

Photographing a Leopard

Wildlife photographer Sergey Gorshkov has been photographing leopards for decades, after his first African wildlife photography expedition captivated him.

“Watching the leopard, I have fallen in love with this animal,” Gorshkov said. “Agile, cruel, and mortally dangerous, the leopard is the most elusive of the big cats.”

He plans his trips specifically to photograph leopards, and says sounds—the “clattering of squirrels, impala sniffing, or single baboon screams”—indicate a leopard is nearby. These photos were taken in South Africa's Londolozi Private Game Reserve.

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