Tracking Leopards in Namibia

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It’s late afternoon at the Okonjima Game Reserve, home of the AfriCat Foundation, one of Namibia’s leading wildlife conservation organizations, and I’m in a jeep bouncing along a rutted track, scanning the bush as safari guide Previous Tsvigu follows the faint blips his tracking device has picked up from one of the reserve’s collared wild cats.

IMG_1850A family-run operation, AfriCat rehabilitates injured wild animals and educates local communities and schools about conservation and living with wildlife. These activities are funded largely through tourism, including stays at Okonjima’s various lodging facilities. Rehabilitated animals that can survive in the wild are released into the 22,000-hectare private Okonjima Reserve.

The blips from the tracking device get stronger, and Previous steers the jeep off the main track and up to a dense copse of trees. We peer through the tall yellow grass and finally catch sight of a leopard crouched among the camouflaging vegetation and eying us intently.

Actually, it turns out we’ve found not just one but two of the reserve’s estimated 25 to 30 leopards. Previous introduces the collared animal whose tracking device led us here as MJ, a 12-year-old female. With her is her six-month-old cub, also female, who will likely stay with her mother for another 18 months to two years before setting out on her own.

IMG_1842MJ seems disinclined to emerge fully from the undergrowth, but her cub, already grown to nearly adult size, treats us to a closer look at her sleekly powerful muscles as she takes a short stroll through the grass before settling back in under the trees with her mother. We linger for a few more minutes, snapping photos, before driving off in search of more wildlife, including the reserve’s other iconic cat species, the cheetah. But that’s a subject for another post….

IMG_1817.CR2 edited2This experience was hosted by Ultimate Safaris and Okonjima/AfriCat as part of the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit.

2 thoughts on “Tracking Leopards in Namibia”

  1. Okonjima is a fabulous place. A must visit when in Namibia. Ultimate safaris is the best, have travelled with them 3 times and about to do a fourth in September.

  2. Lucky you, Anne, to have traveled so much in Namibia and with Ultimate. I loved Okonjima and was very impressed with AfriCat’s work, which I plan to write more about, here and elsewhere. Unfortunately I had injured my knee quite badly a few days before my visit and came down with a very unpleasant 24-hour stomach illness while I was there (no reflection on Okonjima), so I couldn’t take full advantage of all the experiences and the facilities, but I hope to have the chance to go back to Okonjima again.

    Stay tuned for more posts with photos from Okonjima….

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