Stories and Traveltips

ID #3580

The Leopard that Lost its Temper, Chivu, Central Zimbabwe, Southern Africa.

I once spent a few days on Keith Campbell’s farm near Chivhu (formerly Elkeldoorn) in Zimbabwe -- an interesting little town between Masvingo and Harare on the A4. The most delicious biltong is made in a butchery 20-m east of the stop sign.  The pub incorporates a jail. When patrons become unruly, they are thrown in jail but continue to enjoy the party. Quite practical really!

Keith’s farm is more a ranch than a farm, with 35000-acres and 6000 head of cattle. Beautiful highveld grasslands and shady trees – the best beef-raising country I have ever seen. Keith is an ardent conservationist. When he heard that a leopard was after his cattle, he decided to catch it and transport it to a conservation area rather than shoot it, as is the usual practise.

They happened to have a lion trap on the farm (this is Zimbabwe remember) – a box made of welded 10-mm reinforcing rod with a drop gate at the one end. The gate is raised and lowered by means of a rope over a pulley on top. They loaded the trap on the back of a bakkie (pickup), drove it to where the leopard was active and dropped it off, baited with a carcass.

A few days later they received word that a leopard had been trapped. They drove to the site to discover that the trap contained a large male in no mood for negotiations. They loaded the trap onto the back of the bakkie and drove 300-km to a conservation area over bumpy roads, by which time the leopard was at its wits end. Then they dragged the trap off the back of the bakkie, dropping it onto the ground, causing the leopard to chew the reinforcing rods with fury. 

They were faced with the problem of how to raise the gate to allow the leopard to escape without being mauled in the process. It was decided that two would climb into the cab of the bakkie, holding the driver’s door open while he pulled on the rope to raise the gate, allowing the leopard to escape. As soon as it had escaped, he would let go of the rope and jump into the bakkie, slamming the door behind him.

The driver was initially unsure of the merits of the plan but was eventually persuaded. He pulled on the rope, opening the gate. The leopard flew out of the trap but, instead of racing away into the bush it charged the driver, who managed to leap into the bakkie and slam the door closed in the nick of time. The leopard missed him by inches. He was shocked into silence. The leopard, to vent its frustration, took a swipe at the front wheel, hitting the tyre off the rim with one blow!  It then disappeared into the bush leaving the three in the bakkie wondering whether it was safe to get out to change the tyre.  According to Keith, it was some time before they opened the doors of the bakkie!

Chivhu is on the A4 south of Harare. Alan McIver ALLeopard


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Last update: 2014-03-17 02:24
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.1

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