Much like their domestic cousins, big cats have a reputation for playing with their prey before killing it, which can result in brutal bouts of cat and mouse – or in this case, leopard and mini-antelope.

Tour guide Charles Nel captured this unsettling footage on a recent visit to South Africa's Kruger National Park. While traversing the Delagoa thorn thickets near Biyamiti bush camp in the south of the park, Nel noticed a male klipspringer motionless on a rock – its gaze fixed on something concealed in the undergrowth.

"Suddenly a shrill scream rang out and we glanced towards where the klipspringer was staring," Nel told Latest Sightings. "[The] next moment a leopard jumped up onto the rock with a baby duiker in its jaws."

The cat – a burly male with more than enough power in a single paw to easily dispatch the tiny antelope – flopped down on a rock and draped its sizeable swatters over its quarry. The duiker appeared uninjured; however, a grim fate seemed inevitable. "The leopard lay there licking the duiker, which must have been terrifying for the poor thing. Unfortunately, we were unable to know what happened to the young buck as we had to move away for other vehicles to view the sighting," Nel explains.

Common duiker are adaptable antelopes that can be found in just about any savannah woodland south of the Sahara. Their name is borrowed from the Afrikaans word for "diver" – a nod to the manner in which these nimble buck dart and dash through the woody vegetation and tall grass that make up their preferred habitat. This lamb was likely hunkered down in the undergrowth when the leopard found it. Although a newborn duiker can run a day after birth, it takes a bit longer for the young antelope to fully develop its flight instinct and learn an effective strategy for evading a potential threat if its hiding place is exposed.

While it's tempting to make anthropomorphic assumptions about inter-species "adoption" here, this is not an instance of misplaced mothering. This cat is merely playing with its prey and delaying the inevitable. When lambs lie down with leopards, they are almost always on the menu.


Top header image: Mihael Hercog/Flickr