A monitor lizard may seem like unchallenging prey for a leopard, but these reptiles, with their powerful limbs, whip-like tails and claws that almost rival those of the Velocirator, are well-equipped to put up a fight. While on safari recently in Zambia, Costa Frangeskides was lucky enough to capture footage of a water monitor (Varanus niloticus) in full, tail-swishing defence mode as it tried to fend off an opportunistic leopard eager for a meal.

Frangeskides was on an early morning game drive in central Zambia when he spotted a monitor lizard sauntering down the road, trailed by a pair of leopards on the prowl. "We could see that there were two leopards looking very interested in trying to make a morsel of the monitor," he explained to Latest Sightings. When one of the leopards advanced, the lizard went on the defensive. As their common name implies, water monitors are largely aquatic and will typically flee to the safety of a river or dam when under attack. For this unfortunate lizard though, an aquatic escape was not on the cards and the monitor was forced to fight. 

Water monitors – often also called Nile monitors – will boldly take on an attacker – puffing up their bodies and swinging their hefty tails in an effort to see off any threats. If that strategy fails, they are armed with sharp claws and teeth that can inflict considerable damage if a would-be attacker is too careless in its approach. This leopard, however, seemed up for the task, and after absorbing a few mighty tail-strikes the cat was able to sink its teeth into the lizard's neck.

"I’m pretty sure that the monitor lizard did not survive the ordeal but this was an incredible sighting to have witnessed," says Frangeskides.

Top header image: Colin, Flickr