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The leopard which was stretched lazily out on a branch from which he could keep watch on the farmhouse froze into immobility as the vehicle approached. The humans who got out when it stopped actually stared straight at him for an instant as they looked about them nervously. Then the grown one pulled the cub towards the back door. They had seen nothing.
Actually, there were quite a few big cats in Rhino Valley, though normally each would keep to his or her own territory. They had learnt certain rules, and as long as they followed them they had been safe.
Rule number one was never to touch any one of the animals the humans looked after, or be seen or even smelt by one of these or by one of the humans’ dog companions. There were plenty of baboons and buck and hyrax as prey.
The second rule was important because of the fact that he and his kind were mainly nocturnal. Never be near enough to a human with a light, or to one of their moving hollow rocks, to be caught in the beams from those big shining eyes. If a light ever did come in one’s direction, turn the head away and keep motionless.
Simply being invisible was the third rule. This was made easy by natural camouflage, as long as one kept in shadowy places and didn’t move. Recently it had been easier still, by learning the art of Not Being There. All this needed was to think to the other creatures – so that they thought it to themselves – that all they could see was plants and earth.
The leopard prepared to jump down. Perhaps it was time to kill again. Now, he would do it alone.
(Footnote: I know of the ability of leopards to remain anonymous in a farming or semi-built-up area from my own experience. Everyone said I was imagining things when, as a child, I told them I had seen a leopard not far from Knysna Heads, until many years later other sightings also occurred in the area.
Years later still, when some friends and I went on a hike along the coast and camped overnight, there were unmistakable tracks near our tent the following morning.
The local livestock was never touched and – thank heavens – no hunts were ever launched.
Even more years later Younger Daughter and I went for an outride not far from there. I related my experiences to the girl who led the ride, and she pointed out a high overhanging branch upon which, on a previous ride, she had also seen one observing everyone lazily as they passed underneath. She was riding last in the group to keep an eye on some beginners, and had wisely mentioned nothing to them.)
© Colonialist May 2013 (WordPress)