UPDATE (16 July 2015): South African National Paks (SANParks) have released an official statement absolving field guide, Curtis Plumb from any wrongdoing in an incident involving a leopard attack in South Africa's Kruger National Park (KNP) two weeks ago. Speaking at a media briefing at its headquarters today (Thursday, 16 July 2015), Glenn Phillips, KNP Managing Executive, expressed regret that the animal had to be euthanised, but pointed out that evidence collected from a thorough investigation as well as a post mortem conducted on the leopard, indicate that SANParks made the correct decision and Plumb cannot be held responsible for the unfortunate incident. According to Philips: "the results of the post mortem reveal that the animal’s teeth were in a poor condition, its stomach was empty, it had a distended or swollen gall bladder, was burdened by parasites (both internally and externally), had abnormally worn paw pads and was infected with tuberculosis.” Allegations (mostly on social media platforms) that the leopard was harrassed or 'boxed in' by Plumb have been dismissed following the investigation.

Regarding the potential risks related to Open Safari Vehicles (OSVs), Philips concludes that “[a]s long as standards are maintained with vehicle design (height of sides) and guides are suitably skilled, the risk is minimal." 

UPDATE (3 July 2015): Conflicting reports have emerged regarding the details of yesterday's leopard attack in the Kruger National Park. Video and photographic evidence has been published that appear to show the leopard being run over by field guide Curtis Plumb. It is unclear at this stage whether Plumb's actions were purely evasive or if he violated park regulations by getting too close to the leopard. SANParks has indicated that it will release an official report.

Officials in South Africa's Kruger National Park were forced to euthanise an adult male leopard this week after it injured a field guide. Though it appears the animal was sick, which may have led to its aggressive behaviour, it's a sad end for a beautiful cat.

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Image: Helene Boshoff/Facebook
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Image: Helene Boshoff/Facebook

According to eyewitnesses, the guide was with a group of tourists in an open safari vehicle watching the leopard as it approached when the animal disappeared and then suddenly leapt from behind the vehicle to grab the guide's arm.

"Everybody in the vehicle started hitting the leopard with any object they had with them. The leopard would not let go of the guide’s arm. A tourist from another vehicle rushed [over] and repeatedly used his vehicle to scare off the animal and that is when it eventually let go. This quick and decisive action saved the guide and tourists’ lives," SANParks General Manager of Communications and Marketing said in a statement. 

The cat had likely been fighting with another male as one of its hind legs was badly injured. 

The encounter is an important reminder that wild animals are just that: wild. During the ordeal, some tourists began leaning out of their vehicles to photograph the cat, and according to a paramedic who later arrived on the scene, the guide kept urging everyone to remain in their vehicles – even with his arm in the leopard's mouth. 

The guide has since been treated for severe but non-life-threatening injuries to his arm, and wildlife officials plan to conduct a necropsy on the leopard to determine whether it was indeed sick.

News of the leopard's death has saddened many park visitors. For one photographer who had the pleasure of spotting the same big cat during his last trip to the Kruger, it's a particularly disheartening loss. "RIP, old boy," wrote Arno Pieterson in a Facebook post. 

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Image: Arno Pietersen/Facebook
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Image: Arno Pietersen/Facebook 
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Officials took the animal in for a full medical examination. Image: South African National Parks/Facebook

Top header image: Arno Pietersen/Facebook