On a recent trip to Zambia, the Collins’ family decided on a spot of poetry. Their inspiration was the elusive leopard. Can you guess which one the guide chose as his favourite?
The Leopard in the Shadows by Kristyna Collins
My green eyes glinting in the dark I sat beadily watching on the brown bark.
The Impalas munched blissfully unaware of what lies ahead.
I flexed my paws and my muscles and I imagined the kill in my head.
I jumped carefully so as not to make any noise.
As I licked my long teeth and straightened my poise,
My golden pelt rippled in the moonlight that escaped between the branches above me.
And then I saw it hanging from the tree.
I slipped into the undergrowth hoping the monkey didn’t see me.
My stomach growled with hunger, I hadn’t eaten for days and my cubs, and poor infant Lee.
I wouldn’t let them down I had only managed to catch a Scrub-hare every night, and that was not enough for a family to feed.
“Please bring a good meal back if it’s the last thing you do” my skeleton wife had pled.
I pricked my ears as I walked through the gully, the sides rising up like hills.
The two-legged creatures unnatural light shone on me.
As I squinted to see, that’s when I heard the shrills.
The whole forest seemed to shriek at my approach.
DAMN those two leg creatures ruined it.
I would have to run after those Impalas, but I wasn’t fit.
But I had to try, so I raced after the Impala my paws raking the ground.
Then I had an idea. I couldn’t outrun them, not in my state so I jumped onto a mound.
As I bunched my muscles I sprang at the Impala but I fell short .
I bashed to the ground and as they ran into the undergrowth I cuffed my ears.
I lay there for a bit and cried. I had failed but I had to try again and I wiped away my tears.
And that’s when I saw it! Leona the Goddess of Leopards was shining on me!
A buffalo giving birth. My claws raked the earth.
The protectors had fled at my appearance; it was too easy.
I bit into the neck of the mother piercing the windpipe.
It let out a final cry . There was so much food I felt queasy.
Then I remembered the young. I pulled it out and killed it with a swipe of my paw.
I drooled at the taste of blood. But I forced myself to wait for my love.
I called for them and pulled the buffaloes underneath a sausage tree and waited in the dark.
As I waited I settled down by the hard brown bark.
The Elusive Leopard by Grace Collins
I am known as the elusive leopard
Throughout South Luangwa National Park
The main indicator of my presence
Is the wretched baboon bark
For without those blasted monkeys
Humans would never have a clue
They hear the bark, and all at once
Race over to see what’s new.
I see their vehicle approach from afar,
The bush illuminated by their spotlight.
I silently creep deeper into the thicket
Guided by the moonlight
Now comes the big decision.
Whether to take refuge up or down.
In the bushes, or the trees
To fool them as best I can.
A bush I choose so now the game begins.
I have rolled my die.
But all at once, I’m dazzled by light
They have spotted where I lie.
“Green eyes!” they shout,
“A Leopard perhaps!”
So they race over to explore.
Blast!, I think, these humans have won
They have clearly hunted leopard before.
Now it’s time to move
Let’s up the game and confuse them as best I can.
I seek refuge up a sausage tree
Completing stage two of my plan.
They halt beneath and squint above.
Eyes focused on where I sit.
Once again my camouflage has tricked them all.
Giving up, they search the nearby thicket.
You fools, give up, you will never win.
For I will continue to hide,
I am the master of disguise you see
The elusive leopard you can only dream to find!
The Elusive Leopard by Kevin Collins
I know it’s me you safari to see
I’ve watched you search in gully, bank and tree.
From your open-topped truck with guide and scout
I have learnt how to give you the real run about.
They talk of the Big 5, but actually it’s two
Rhino and me, because we are the few.
As you peer into the darkness shaped by the moon
Reflect that we may not be here one day soon.
“There!, There!” I hear you say
As you thank the God to whom you pray.
I have revealed myself for a moment in time
A fleeting glimpse of me in my prime.
I could make it easy, but by making it hard
You can boast “I saw the ellusive leopard” !
The Elusive Leopard by Abigail Collins
The noisy animal with four round legs roared past startling the Impala.
The last three hours of stealthily creeping up the gully now wasted, and I am hungry!
Riding on top of this monster are animals that walk on two legs, and seem to always be tracking me.
They come day and night, peering into the trees with large glinting eyes during the day,
and bright suns that they seem to move and control at night.
They always come, looking for me, they will not leave me alone.
I like my peace,
I like to listen to the sounds of my land,
I like to eat well, and I like to be left alone.
I hide in the trees and watch as they go by,
turning my head aside so their suns do not catch my beautiful green eyes and give away my presence.
I watch and wait till they have passed,
and then I melt into the darkness of the bush like a shadow.
And for something extra:
What animal am I by Abigail?!
Why does no-one stop and stare at me?
I have beautiful eyes and a china-like face, and I am dainty on my feet, but no-one seems to care about me!
It makes me sad and to try to attract attention I run with big leaps, and pretend to fight my brother clashing our fine horns.
People may chuckle at this, but they do not stop and photograph me.
They only stop and watch if I am being stalked by a cat.
I feel unappreciated and neglected
I am an ……………Impala!
And the winner? Kristyna Collins!
If you want a good chance of seeing the elusive leopard for yourself, then click below for more details on the fantastic lodges the Collins’s stayed in: