Luna the leopard’s fight to raise her cubs in one of the most punishing places on earth.

  • Wildlife photographer Hannes Lochner, from South Africa, spent two years in the Kalahari documenting Luna’s life
  • During that time he saw her have three litters, two of which survived, but one set was taken by hyenas
  • Much of his work followed the leopard’s activity at night, when it was safer for her to move and hunt
  • Luna had to protect her cubs from the park’s lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, brown hyenas and jackals
  • Mr Lochner also captured other fascinating moments in the Kalahari animal kingdom during his two-year project
Attentive - The striking looking female leopard scoured the desert when night fell searching for threats and opportunities for food

Attentive – The striking looking female leopard scoured the desert when night fell searching for threats and opportunities for food

Wildlife photographer Hannes Lochner spent 750 days in the harsh surroundings of the Kalahari Desert to chronicle the life of a female leopard and her struggle to raise cubs in one of the most punishing environments on earth.

Lochner, 41, travelled a colossal 100,000km during his time at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The images, collected in his new book ‘The Dark Side of the Kalahari’, capture the awe-inspiring beauty and breathtaking diversity of life in the region.

Shooting mostly at night, the Cape Town-born photographer had to brave night-time temperatures of -13 in the winter, while trying to catch up on his sleep in sweltering 40C heat in the day.

Striking - The life of Luna the leopard was documented in stills by photographer Hannes Lochner over a two-year period

Striking – The life of Luna the leopard was documented in stills by photographer Hannes Lochner over a two-year period

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I have always been fascinated by leopards, and my dream was to follow and document a leopard raising cubs in this Kalahari hostile environment,’ Hannes said.

‘There are few female leopards in the south of the park, and we started tracking one with a cub of 12 months old.

‘She was not very accommodating, and took us at least three months to get used to us. She didn’t have a tracking device so we had to track her the hard way. Lots of hours in the bush.’

Magical - Filming Luna with her cubs was the highlight of Mr Lochner's two-year project immersed in the Kalahari Desert, describing the special moments with the cubs as 'incredible'

Magical – Filming Luna with her cubs was the highlight of Mr Lochner’s two-year project immersed in the Kalahari Desert, describing the special moments with the cubs as ‘incredible’

Framed - Luna was the focus of Mr Lochner's attention throughout the two years he spent in the desert, following her day and night, but she was most active at night 1Framed - Luna was the focus of Mr Lochner's attention throughout the two years he spent in the desert, following her day and night, but she was most active at night 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The leopard, named Luna, had to protect her cubs from the park’s lions, cheetah, spotted hyenas, brown hyenas and jackals, all of whom will kill cubs on sight.

The leopardess had three litters during the two years and three months she was trailed by Lochner. Her middle two cubs were killed by a brown hyena, but she later gave birth to another two which survived.

Entertainment - During his two-year project, Mr Lochner was privy to a host of fascinating and often comical moments in the animal kingdom in the Kalahari Desert, including this fox cub playing with a mouse

Entertainment – During his two-year project, Mr Lochner was privy to a host of fascinating and often comical moments in the animal kingdom in the Kalahari Desert, including this fox cub playing with a mouse

Baffled - These two owls appeared to be bemused and fascinated by an insect that scurried between them

Baffled – These two owls appeared to be bemused and fascinated by an insect that scurried between them

All creatures great and small - Animals both large and small were snapped by Mr Lochner during his time in the Kalahari, including this tiny lizard captured balancing on a seed pod as it blew in the wind

All creatures great and small – Animals both large and small were snapped by Mr Lochner during his time in the Kalahari, including this tiny lizard captured balancing on a seed pod as it blew in the wind

Also, unusually for leopards, she was regularly joined by ‘family man’ Oscar, the father of all three litters.

Lochner was accompanied on his travels by his partner Noa Koefler, who did all the film work for the project. Her video clips can be seen on the App that will be released at the end October to accompany Lochner’s images.

First light - Luna had three litters of cubs throughout the two years she was photographed, the first and last set survived, the middle set of cubs were taken by hyenas

First light – Luna had three litters of cubs throughout the two years she was photographed, the first and last set survived, the middle set of cubs were taken by hyenas

Fast facts about Leopards:
Coat colour Varies from pale yellow to deep gold or tawny, and sometimes black, patterned with black rosettes while the head, lower limbs and belly are spotted with solid black
Average weight 60 kilograms
Head and body length 100 0 190 cm
Tail length 70 – 95 cm
Shoulder height 45 – 80 cm
Speed Up to 57 km / hr

 

Predator - Among the many predators in the desert that would eat Luna's cubs were the lions

Predator – Among the many predators in the desert that would eat Luna’s cubs were the lions

Close up - Fearless lions could easily take Luna's cubs is the opportunity arose

Close up – Fearless lions could easily take Luna’s cubs is the opportunity arose

High alert - Luna was alone in the desert protecting and feeding herself and her cubs; the lions worked in a pride and there were always members on high alert for opportunities for food

High alert – Luna was alone in the desert protecting and feeding herself and her cubs; the lions worked in a pride and there were always members on high alert for opportunities for food

Snarl - A close-up of a leopard's mouth shows a healthy set of sharp teeth to the camera

Snarl – A close-up of a leopard’s mouth shows a healthy set of sharp teeth to the camera

During the day, the pride of lions would often rest - as would Luna - as the temperatures rose and the flies came out

During the day, the pride of lions would often rest – as would Luna – as the temperatures rose and the flies came out

Pack - A group of jackals also posed a threat, capable of taking Luna's cubs if hungry. Here they fight over the remains of a carcass in the Kalahari, South Africa

Pack – A group of jackals also posed a threat, capable of taking Luna’s cubs if hungry. Here they fight over the remains of a carcass in the Kalahari

As the sun set, the big cats, including Luna and her cubs and the lions, would seek out opportunities for food and Mr Lochner would begin taking his photos

As the sun set, the big cats, including Luna and her cubs and the lions, would seek out opportunities for food and Mr Lochner would begin taking his photos

Deadly - The roar of the lions and other greeting calls could be heard from miles across the desert

Deadly – The roar of the lions and other greeting calls could be heard from miles across the desert

Dramatic - Night time work produced some incredible shots, including this lioness trying to sleep as thunder storm raged nearby

Dramatic – Night time work produced some incredible shots, including this lioness trying to sleep as thunder storm raged nearby

Beneath a blanket of stars, one leopard was captured walking past a magnificent lone tree in the desert

Beneath a blanket of stars, one leopard was captured walking past a magnificent lone tree in the desert

Serene - A single owl flew into a stunning night-time landscape of the Kalahari Desert, as lightning lit up the horizon

Serene – A single owl flew into a stunning night-time landscape of the Kalahari Desert, as lightning lit up the horizon

Silent - A lone leopard scans the vegetation from a rocky perch on a starry night, captured in this incredible time-elapsed photo of the night sky

Silent – A lone leopard scans the vegetation from a rocky perch on a starry night, captured in this incredible time-elapsed photo of the night sky

Photographer Hannes Lochner spent much of his time taking photos at night from his jeep while his partner Noa Koefler did all the film work for the project

Photographer Hannes Lochner spent much of his time taking photos at night from his jeep while his partner Noa Koefler did all the film work for the project

Mr Lochner's book 'The Dark Side of the Kalahari' chronicles the life of Luna the leopard and her struggle to raise her litters of cubs

Mr Lochner’s book ‘The Dark Side of the Kalahari’ chronicles the life of Luna the leopard and her struggle to raise her litters of cubs

From: www.dailymail.co.uk

Date: 3 September 2013