Leopards are expert ambush hunters. Patience, persistence and strategic positioning are critical ingredients of a successful hunt. In a recently uploaded video captured last year one of these big cats flaunts its hunting prowess as it takes down a young wildebeest with remarkable efficiency.

The clip – filmed in South Africa's Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park – chronicles a leopard's afternoon hunt at a waterhole in the south of the reserve. It was mid-morning in June last year, when tour guide Jason Render decided to take his guests to Bhejane Hide – a concealed wildlife-viewing shelter overlooking a waterhole popular with the park's plains game. A leopard on the lookout for a meal was surveying the waterhole, much to the displeasure of a group of warthogs that were forced to find a quick escape route after catching sight of the big cat. 

The leopard seemed to realise that its position in the open was compromising its chances of a meal and it moved into the shade of an acacia thicket – a much better vantage point from which to launch an ambush. A herd of wildebeest – excited by the prospect of quenching their thirst – trotted to the water's edge and lined up to drink. Unaware of the presence of a predator, one of the wildebeest calves shuffled to the end of the group, inadvertently placing itself just metres from the crouching cat.

The hunt was over in seconds. The leopard surged from the thicket, scattering the herd and sending the youngster into thick mud where it quickly become mired and was seized upon by the leopard. "Having been a guide for only two years, this was my first sighting of a leopard making a kill," Render told a local news outlet. "Our guests were most definitely incredibly happy after this sighting," he added.

Leopards will dine on anything they can catch, including squirrels, reptiles, and – in one particularly strange case – a rhino calf. The cats are not above scavenging either and will readily tuck into carrion if it's on offer. In this instance – as is often the case with opportunistic predators – the leopard targeted a youngster and reaped the benefits of its inexperience.

Top header image: Colin the Scot, Flickr