Wildlife Classics: A Tsavo Leopard

from The Man-Eaters of Tsavo by JH Patterson

We were never long without excitement of some kind or another at Tsavo. When the camp was not being attacked by man-eating lions, it was visited by leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, wild cats, and other inhabitants of the jungle around us. These animals did a great deal of damage to the herds of sheep and goats which were kept to supply the commissariat, and there was always great rejoicing when a capture was made in one of the many traps that were laid for them.

Leopards especially are most destructive, often killing simply for pleasure and not for food: and I have always harboured animosity towards them since the night when one wantonly destroyed a whole herd of mine. I happened at the time to have a flock of about thirty sheep and goats which I kept for food and for milk, and which were secured at sundown in a grass hut at one corner of my boma. One particularly dark night we were startled by a tremendous commotion in this shed, but as this was before the man-eaters were killed, no one dared stir out to investigate the cause of the disturbance. I naturally thought that the intruder was one of the "demons," but all I could do was to fire several shots in the direction of the hut, hoping to frighten him away. In spite of these, however, it was some time before the noise died down and everything became still again. As soon as it was dawn I went to the shed to see what had happened, and there, to my intense anger, I found every one of my sheep and goats lying stretched dead, on the ground with its throat bitten through. A hole had been made through the frail wall of the shed, and I saw from this and from the tracks all round that the author of the wholesale slaughter had been a leopard. He had not eaten one of the flock, but had killed them all out of pure love of destruction.

I hoped that he would return the next night to make a meal; and should he do so, I determined to have my revenge. I accordingly left the carcases exactly as they lay, and having a very powerful steel trap -- like an enormous rat-trap, and quite strong enough to hold a leopard if he should put his foot in it -- I placed this in the opening into the shed and secured it by a stout chain to a long stake driven into the ground outside. Darkness found everyone in my boma on the alert and listening anxiously to hear the noise the leopard would make the moment he was caught in the trap. Nor were we disappointed, for about midnight we heard the click of the powerful spring, followed immediately by frantic roaring and plunging. I had been sitting all evening with my rifle by my side and a lantern lighted, so I immediately rushed out, followed by the chaukidar (watchman) carrying the lamp. As we approached the shed, the leopard made a frantic spring in our direction as far as the chain would allow him, and this so frightened the chaukidar that he fled in terror, leaving me in utter darkness. The night was as black as had been the previous one, and I could see absolutely nothing; but I knew the general direction in which to fire and accordingly emptied my magazine at the beast. As far as I could make out, he kept dodging in and out through the broken wall of the goat-house; but in a short time my shots evidently told, as his struggles ceased and all was still. I called out that he was dead, and at once everyone in the boma turned out, bringing all the lanterns in the place. With the others came my Indian overseer, who shouted that he too wanted revenge, as some of the goats had belonged to him. Whereupon he levelled his revolver at the dead leopard, and shutting his eyes tightly, fired four shots in rapid succession. Naturally not one of these touched the beast, but they caused considerable consternation amongst the onlookers, who scattered rapidly to right and left. Next morning a party of starving Wa Kamba happened to be passing just as I was about to skin the leopard, and asked by means of signs to be allowed to do the job for me and then to take the meat. I of course assented to this proposal, and in a very few minutes the skin had been neatly taken off, and the famishing natives began a ravenous meal on the raw flesh. 

Free stuff on Facebook!

I’m teaming up with Audible.com to give away five free copies of my new audiobook, The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators, on Facebook.  All you have to do for your chance is like or comment on the post over there. We’ll put all the names in a hat and draw for the prizes in one week. More about the audiobook (regularly priced at $17.46) is here:

 (And if you’re not into Facebook, don’t worry; we’ll be doing another giveaway in the coming weeks exclusively for readers of this blog.)


Black Widow Basics

Old-fashioned but nifty video:

The Wasp's Victim

D'Arcy rescued this paralyzed fellow from a wasp, which presumably meant to use it as fodder for her young.

NEW: The Red Hourglass on audio

Audible.com has just unveiled the audio edition of The Red Hourglass. It's narrated by Keith Sellon-Wright (Madmen, Parks and Recreation, and too many other shows and movies to list). The New York Times called The Red Hourglass "first-rate, unsentimental writing about nature and about the ways that human beings try to cope with the most terrible cruelties that nature offers up." Now you can listen to it on your commute, during your workout, or even while relaxing in bed. . . although some readers have told me they didn’t sleep well after trying that last option.

Centipede Eats Mouse

In The Centipede Feeds: Predator Porn on Youtube, writer Mark Dery tackles the horror and disgust our multi-legged friends sometimes produce in humans. The video above is among several impressive images included with his essay, which surveys the topic from the book of Leviticus to Youtube comments. Personally, I never found centipedes disgusting. . . until I watched the video. Nevertheless, if anybody's wondering what to get me for Christmas. . . .

PS--What's up with those pushy pill bugs?
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