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In Search of the Black Leopard of Laikipia

Above: Lekurtut the Samburu guide on granite hill at Suyian Soul Laikipia

Published: The East African Magazine 7-13 November 2020

Text & Images: Rupi Mangat

The elephant trumpeted and the lion roared loud that my heart thumped wildly in my chest. And l was under the ‘sky shower’ on a dark night in a banda that had doors but no windows in mud walls so low that they opened to the plains. I wondered how the rest of the four ‘black leopard’ hunters in their bandas were holding out.

I found out the next morning. All slept soundly except for one. “You didn’t tell me there were no windows,” she accused.

“But you only asked if the bandas had doors,” l replied in defence. Anyway, by the fourth day, our lady had braved the roars to add them to her ring tone. So proud of her. 

Ensuite private banda on Suyian Soul.

We were in search of the black leopard of Laikipia that’s more famous for its CE (for Critically endangered on the IUCN list) denizens like the thin-stripped Grevy’s zebra, the neatly-patterned Reticulated giraffe and the Beisa oryx with its fearfully long, pointed horns all adapted to survival in the semi-arid land of Laikipia.

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