Answer by Rory Young:
There are many animal species in Africa that lead a solitary lifestyle. However, when I think of a lonely animal I always think of leopards. All cats are loners, except for lions of course, and the largest and possibly the most beautiful of these is the leopard.
Their loneliness is a necessity. Whilst a pride of lions relies on teamwork to bring down buffalo and other mostly large prey, very much in the open, leopards use stealth, camouflage, ambush, incredible bursts of speed and a mind-boggling power-to-weight-ratio to hunt their prey. As ambush hunters they need to be solitary. They would not be able to hunt this way in a group.
I recently spent some time in the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia watching and following the stunning beauty in these all of these pictures. She lives in riverine forest which, being thick bush, makes it hard enough to spot animals, so I was very lucky to see so much of her.
Here is an example of her camouflage ability. Look carefully!
Okay, let's take a closer look..
Here's a real close up..
Aside from seeing her I found a lot of evidence of her life. Here are her tracks. As they use stealth, leopards move very quietly and place their feet very carefully at all times. Their paw marks are very neat and symmetrical, unlike lions who tend to slap down their paws and make a big racket unless they are actually stalking.
One morning on a walk we found had dropped this impala between two trunks.
Leaving it there would mean the hyaenas and lions could easily reach it. Somehow she would have to unwedge it from between the two trunks and haul it up higher.
When we returned in the late afternoon we found that she had unwedged it and hauled it to the top of a baobab tree nearby.
She is a young female and this tree trunk was over 12m straight up which may give some idea of their incredible strength.
This is the first time I have ever seen a leopard kill up this type of tree. They prefer trees that provide shade and concealment. Baobabs are very exposed and offer very little shade and concealment.
Here is a picture of the marks made by her claws at an earlier site where she had taken a baboon up a tree. They are known to take prey weighing over 100kg straight up a tree trunk by holding the animal in their mouths and using their claws to grip the tree trunk.
Here is a picture of her climbing a tree trunk without prey. As usual, she manages to be almost invisible although she is in plain sight.
The following tree is much more like what she would normally take her prey into. She is grooming, something, like domestic cats, that leopards do a lot of.
Leopards are mostly nocturnal although sometimes they will come out in overcast weather.
Although leopards are able to survive right on the edge of towns, living on small animals, sadly their numbers have declined dramatically due to poaching and being caught in snares set for other, smaller animals.