She is the ultimate predator – a sleek and stealthy killer. Pouncing on her prey, she silences the baboon with one swipe of a vicious paw. Then, suddenly, something stirs in the dead animal's fur, and the law of the jungle is rewritten.
She had killed the mother primate, but then found this live new-born on the ground. The little baboon called out, and we thought we were going to hear a major crunch and the leopard smacking its lips, but instead the baby baboon put its paws out and walked towards the young leopard.
"Legadema (the leopard) paused for a moment, apparently not knowing what to do. Then she gently picked it up in her mouth, holding it by the scruff of its neck and carrying the infant up a tree to keep it safe."
Baboons are arch enemies of the leopard, and one of their major food sources, but Legadema – the local Setswana word for "light from the sky" – was in the transitional stage between cub and predator, and it seems her maternal instincts came to the fore.
[youtube height=”500″ width=”800″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugi4x8kZJzk[/youtube]
"It was as if nature had turned on its head completely," says Dereck Joubert, a filmmaker who followed Legadema for three-and-a-half years in her natural habitat, the Okavango Delta of Botswana – the verdant flood plains known as Africa's Garden of Eden.
Tragically, when morning came, the camera team realised that the tiny baboon was no longer showing signs of life. "We think it was simply too small to survive the night without its natural mother and the sustenance she could provide," says Joubert. "As the sun came up, Legadema realised that the baby had died, and moved on."