This is the gruesome moment a cannibal leopard killed and then could eat a female’s cub – so that she was forced to mate with him.
Graphic images show the male leopard carrying the mutilated body of the cub in its mouth before dragging it up into a tree in a game reserve in the north east of South Africa.
It then appears to save its ‘meal’ for later by hanging it on a branch to stop other animals getting their paws on his catch. Experts said the leopard killed the baby so it could mate with its mother.
The big cats sometimes kill cubs if a female has offspring fathered by another male and in order to mark their territory. But while such killings are common, it is unusual for animals to eat the cub.
But in this case, Leopard Eats Female’s Cub!
The pictures were taken by Warrick Davey, a field guide at &Beyond’s Exeter River Lodge.
The 29-year-old, from Scottburgh, South Africa, was leading a series of guests on a safari tour when he spotted the grizzly scene unfolding.
He said the guests on his tour were so shocked by what they saw they were left speechless.
He added: ‘The adult leopard is a male, known as the Ravenscourt male, who is around four years old. The cub was a young male around a year old. We were in an open land cruiser, only about 15m from the action.
‘It was a complete surprise. I heard over the radio that a leopard had been found, but was not expecting to find what we did when we arrived.
‘The series of photos starts off with the male leopard carrying the cub in his mouth.
‘As we arrived the leopard cub carcass, which was hanging in the tree, dropped to the ground. Immediately the male leopard, which was resting in the shade of the tree on the ground, jumped up and seized the carcass and hoisted it back up the tree.
‘The following images depict the male leopard trying to find a secure place to leave the carcass and in doing so, jumps from branch to branch with the cub in his mouth.
‘He then places the carcass, comes down the tree and finds a spot to rest. However he repeatedly looks up to make sure it is still there, which is what we see in the final photo.’
He said that the young male leopard was trying to establish a territory in the area and that within this area was a female with a cub not belonging to him.
‘In order for him to be able to mate with that female, he needs to get rid of the cub so the female will come back and he can spread his genes,’ he added.
‘This act of infanticide is actually quite common with a lot of animals, especially big cats. The interesting behaviour though is that he chose to eat the cub too. This I have never witnessed before with leopards.
‘I was ecstatic for having captured the photos, yet still taken aback by what we had just witnessed. This was a first for me, as well as my tracker Chris who has been working in the Sabi Sands for over 20 years.
‘I think it is very unlikely we’ll ever see anything like this again. Chris is convinced that something is changing with animals, their behaviour is different to what it used to be. Maybe there is something in the water.’