Whether they're pin-dropping onto prey from the treetops or launching a ninja attack from ground level, leopards are the ultimate feline showoffs (don’t worry, caracals, you guys are a close second). Just take a look at the high-flying antics of this leopard on the hunt in South Africa's Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

Recently uploaded by Brenden Hughes, the clip showcases how adept these big cats are at hunting in the treetops. The unfortunate prey in this case is a juvenile vervet monkey, a common primate found throughout South Africa. While the monkey is built for life amongst the branches, its arboreal acrobatics proved no match for the keen eye and experience of the leopard.

Leopards are ambush predators and typically rely on stealth when hunting, but they vary their tactics depending on the prey. The cats often hunt under the cover of darkness, relying on acute eyesight and hearing to stalk within metres of their prey before launching a surprise attack. Sneaking up on a monkey can be tricky though, so this was probably an unplanned attack. 

A juvenile vervet is a relatively small meal for a leopard, which typically targets medium to large-sized herbivores. In the Kruger National Park, this includes antelope species like impala, bushbuck and common duiker, but leopards are not fussy eaters and will scoff down pretty much anything, from pythons to rotting zebra carcasses

According to estimates, there were about 1,000 leopards living in the Kruger in 2011, but their solitary and elusive nature makes counting the cats tricky. Although populations in South Africa's flagstone reserve appear to be stable, the species is in trouble elsewhere. Once widely distributed across much of Africa and Asia, leopard populations have become "reduced and isolated", according to the IUCN. The usual culprits are to blame: habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, prey declines, illegal trade and poorly managed trophy hunting.

Organisations like the INGWE Leopard Research program and Panthera are working to find out more about the distribution of leopard populations and what we can do to conserve them. With large home ranges and the ability to adapt to a variety of habitats, leopards often wander outside of protected areas and fall victim to human-wildlife conflict. Let's hope this monkey-grabbing, aerial cat stays put.

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