Not too long ago, we were marvelling over some stellar snapshots of a jaguar rustlin' and wrasslin' up a caiman entrée in the Brazilian Pantanal; now we have equally impressive footage of an African leopard dispatching a Nile crocodile.

Photographer and safari guide Edward Selfe captured the event, which took place on a recent evening in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park.

"We found this large leopard resting on a fallen tree at dusk," writes Selfe on his website. "He descended and called, starting to mark his territory. We followed for a while and then left him when he went to drink at the river. Returning soon after, we found him ... dragging a carcass through the long grass." 

A few moments later, the photographer realised that the spotted cat's prize was a small crocodile.

It's not exactly a garden-variety leopard kill to witness, but it's also not exactly shocking. Leopards are famously unfussy about food, with a diet that's among the widest-ranging of any large carnivore. We're talking fish and frogs all the way up to hoofed fare the size of eland and young buffalo. An incautious (maybe dozing) little crocodile along the river's edge would be a prime target for the big cat family's über-opportunist.

Leopards in Africa and Asia probably don't eat crocodilians as frequently as some populations of jaguars, for which caimans may constitute major portions of their regular meal ticket. But Selfe's sighting isn't the first time the jaguar's Old World lookalike cousin has been seen chowing down on scaly sustenance. Hal Brindley, for example, photographed a Kruger National Park leopard snatching a somewhat larger Nile croc right from the water and killing it on land.

Tigers and lions (both African and Asiatic) are also occasional hunters of adult crocodilians. (And sometimes good-sized ones: check out this footage of a Bengal tigress attacking a significantly bigger crocodile.) The Florida panther, a North American subspecies of puma, probably hunts small alligators on occasion, and a trail camera produced this neat sequence of a mother panther routing a large gator whose smiling jaws she likely deemed too near her kittens:

Meanwhile, hatchling and subadult crocodilians are (unsurprisingly) potential prey of any number of smaller felids.

And of course the tables are readily turned: just as a big cat is one of the few critters realistically capable of preying on a large crocodilian, the reverse is also true. Nile crocodiles have been known to eat leopards on occasion, and the spotted cats have shown up in the stomachs of mugger crocs in India.

It's worth pointing out that leopards and crocs aren't always interacting as predator and prey, but also sometimes as fellow scavengers. On more than one occasion, leopards have been seen sidling up to some heavyweight Nile crocodiles to share their dinner: for instance, Exhibit A (also from Zambia's South Luangwa) and Exhibit B:



Top header image: Pixabay