Envision your dream honeymoon. One might imagine sheer white curtains gently blowing in the breeze on a veranda overlooking white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.
If you’re Tanner Harvey, though, you instead might be feasting your eyes on a cannibalistic leopard perched high in a tree in the Serengeti.
The PhD student was honeymooning in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in December. Just after dawn, the newlyweds left their campsite in a group tour hoping to catch up with a nearby lion pride.
Upon turning around a rock formation, the group instead ran into a very different sort of cat. They noticed a leopard panting at the foot of a tree – a behavior typical of the spotted feline after making a fresh kill.
Scanning up the tree, the group saw another, deader leopard.
Harvey shared his story in an interview with National Geographic, and his guide told him the dead leopard was likely freshly killed and dragged into the tree by the other leopard to protect it from scavengers.
Overall, the male leopard spent around 90 minutes on his cannibalistic buffet before climbing down the tree, grooming and sunning himself, and sauntering off to a nearby cave.
“Time flies when you’re watching a leopard eat another leopard,” Harvey said.
It is rare to stumble into a leopard-eating-leopard scene, but it’s not unheard of. Older territorial cats have been known to kill younger encroaching felines to eliminate competition for both prey and potential mates.
Rates of infanticide in male leopards are among the highest recorded, but scientists typically write it off as sexual selection – reproducing with the mother of said cub to create the leopard version of the Genghis Khan dynasty.
But killing an animal of the same species for consumption is another story – and a rare one at that.
A 1977 study details one cannibalistic account of an adult leopard who defended its prey from a younger female, killing and then consuming her.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise based on our knowledge of leopards and their opportunistic predation strategies.
Still, the sight is weirdly unsettling.
[H/T: National Geographic]