Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Leopard Hunts Baboon in Broad Daylight


No ordinary leopard dares to stalk baboons in broad daylight. Mother leopard Olimba proves her ability as a skilled hunter as she stalks a troop of baboons.

♪♪ Narrator: From the heartland of Africa comes a powerful story of great depth.

♪♪ A phantom from below.

The shadow of a ghost.

This is the story of Olimba.

Her intimate embrace means both life and death.

A mother is a force of nature.

Both provider and protector.

♪♪ She will do whatever it takes to secure her legacy.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Narrator: Hidden in Zambia's Luangwa valley, an open plain is scarred by a deep, winding gully.

Here, age-old ebony trees are home to the annual gathering of yellow billed storks.

This time of year, the fledglings gather on the edge of the gully, a valuable food source for many residents.

But it can be a dangerous place.

The baboons know this danger all too well.

♪♪ ♪♪ An eerie shadow creeping ever closer.

♪♪ ♪♪ This is Olimba, a powerful leopardess in her prime.

Named for her strength and boldness.

She is a formidable hunter.

Water in the gully doesn't stop her.

But baboons are vigilant.

♪♪ [ Baboons calling ] They know her very well.

She won't wait until nightfall to hunt.

Her confidence unnerves them.

♪♪ ♪♪ As the baboons leave, Olimba readjusts her sights.

On the other side of the gully, antelope graze on the edges.

Her hunt is far from over.

Here, a predator truly becomes invisible.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Stalking in a dry part of the gully gives her a unique advantage, revealing a unique perspective.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ It's an intimate ancient dance, honed over time.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ The commotion has attracted attention.

Olimba is forced to release the impala.

♪♪ Both predators are left with nothing.

♪♪ It wasn't worth the fight.

There is too much at stake for her, especially now.

A winterthorn tree is the focus of Olimba's gentle attention.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Growls ] ♪♪ ♪♪ Difficult to reach, the hollow is a perfect hiding place.

♪♪ From this vantage point she is satisfied that now is the time.

She is a solitary animal... [ Squeaking ] ...but no longer alone.

♪♪ Olimba has become a mother to not just one, but two tiny cubs.

♪♪ ♪♪ She's been keeping her cubs here for their first few weeks, and now it's time to carry them to a new home.

She navigates the tree with stunning agility.

♪♪ ♪♪ It's a dangerous and delicate undertaking.

Her lethal jaws transformed into a gentle hold of tenderness.

♪♪ [ Squeaks ] Returning for her second cub, Olimba stops in her tracks.

An ever present threat.

♪♪ If given the chance, hyenas would kill her cubs.

But they are well out of reach, and she is an expert in stealth.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Squeaks ] ♪♪ ♪♪ It's been a big day for the cubs.

Their first glimpse of the outside world.

It's the beginning of an extraordinary adventure.

♪♪ [ Snorting ] With her cubs safe in their new den, Olimba is out on patrol along the Luangwa River.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ This is her home, which she safeguards by leaving messages and announcing that this is her empire.

[ Grunting ] ♪♪ Even on patrol, she can't resist the attraction of prey.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Failing is part of her everyday life.

She is experienced in this game of patience and opportunity.

This is where she is most comfortable.

♪♪ Soon enough, she might even turn an irritation into a hunting opportunity.

[ Growling ] [ Squeaking ] ♪♪ To Olimba, an irritation - now dealt with.

To her cubs, their first taste of meat.

♪♪ She introduces them to the world of a carnivore.

♪♪ And in that world, you fight for your share.

♪♪ [ Screeching ] ♪♪ Carnivores they may be, but the cubs are still utterly dependent on their mother.

[ Screeching ] ♪♪ ♪♪ With their bellies filled, Olimba leads them to another den site.

Changing dens every few days makes it less likely their scent will give the cubs away.

Her white tail tip, a beacon for the cubs to follow.

♪♪ ♪♪ Their new home is a large fallen tree.

A great playground and a suitable hideaway.

♪♪ [ Screeching ] When out hunting, this is where Olimba will leave them behind.

Here, they should be safe.

♪♪ Leaving her cubs is always risky, but she needs to hunt and defend her territory.

There seems to be something amiss.

A scent she picks up in her home range that doesn't seem familiar to her.

She only defends her territory against other females, but will protect her cubs against any intruder.

A nomadic male, missing his left paw.

He's in her territory, not far from where she's hiding her cubs.

He might be limping but cannot be underestimated.

♪♪ ♪♪ He is getting too close.

Olimba's maternal instincts drive her forward.

♪♪ [ Growling ] [ Growling continues ] The uproar carries across the valley and is heard by the area's dominant male.

♪♪ Olimba will not leave the intruder alone so near her cubs.

♪♪ ♪♪ Her ally, the dominant male, is drawn into the fray.

♪♪ [ Snarls ] ♪♪ [ Growling ] Backing Olimba in the fight, the dominant male has made his point.

A crocodile attack has already disabled the nomad.

[ Growls ] Having faced two angry leopards, he is lucky to get away with his life.

And as quietly as he arrived, the dominant male disappears back into the shadows.

And now Olimba needs to get back to her cubs.

She needs to make sure they are still safe.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Squeaks ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Squeaks ] It's the little male, excited to see his mother again.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Growling ] Olimba continues to call.

The little female is still missing.

♪♪ [ Growling ] ♪♪ She moves around the area, searching and calling for her missing cub.

[ Growling ] She listens for any sound.

Looks out for any movement.

But there is no sign of her.

♪♪ Her search leads nowhere.

She has lost one of her cubs.

♪♪ Which one of her enemies was responsible will always remain a mystery.

But now she has to focus on the survival of her remaining cub.

She leads him away, their bond intensified by the tragedy.

♪♪ Having come to terms with her loss, Olimba forges on as a devoted mother and fearless hunter.

♪♪ No ordinary leopard dares to stalk baboons in broad daylight.

The troop seems totally oblivious to the imminent threat.

♪♪ ♪♪ She's exposed, yet remarkably unseen in the open.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Baboons screeching ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Baboons calling ] A small but significant victory.

Her cub will be provided for.

Day breaks on a nervous baboon troop.

The after effects of Olimba's bold and successful hunt linger in the air.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Growling ] Rattled, the baboons respond to Olimba's audacity.

♪♪ [ Calling ] Her blue eyed boy is growing, becoming more demanding, fiercely fighting for his share.

♪♪ ♪♪ But faced with an adult baboon, he is easily intimidated by as little as a stare.

♪♪ Over time, the little male learns all there is to know on how to live life as a leopard.

Following his mother up the highest trees and feeding by her side.

His mother patiently guiding him towards adolescence as he regards the world as one big adventure.

♪♪ His name is Makumbi.

For resembling the sky in his piercing blue eyes.

Learning to stalk and pounce through play with his mother.

Their bond, stronger than ever.

♪♪ Looking forward to the promise of the future.

♪♪ [ Wind whistling ] By the end of October, the dust storms announce the imminent return of the rains.

♪♪ [ Thunder crashes ] ♪♪ ♪♪ It is the perpetual pulse of the seasons, when animals welcome each valuable drop of life.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ The rhythm of the rains is a catalyst for change.

The yellow billed storks return to their annual nesting site in the ebony trees.

♪♪ This is where muddy flood waters have claimed Olimba's winding hunting gully.

This time of year, most of her empire is submerged.

At the end of the rains, the Luangwa Valley experiences the inevitable transformation back to the realm of the hunter.

Makumbi awakes to a bright new season.

He is nearly a year old.

His eyes, now bluer than ever, reflect his confidence and eagerness to hunt.


♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Having aimed low and missed, why not aim a little higher?

The Stork Colony now a hive of activity.

The chicks are busy practicing their flight skills.

And the ones that have made it to the ground, are perfect targets for a young leopard, who needs to catch his own prey.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ But how do you catch prey with wings?

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Makumbi is still a beginner.

His mother is a master.

The relationship between hunter and hunted is a surprisingly intimate one.

♪♪ From every stalk to every takedown.

A ritual of primal instinct.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Between her first sight and her final fight, the act reveals remarkable parallels.

♪♪ ♪♪ It is nature's stone cold contract, killing to live.

And Olimba's signature execution, a marvel of necessity.

♪♪ It's Olimba's experience as a hunter that has allowed Makumbi to grow into a stunning adolescent male.

♪♪ ♪♪ She shares her kills with him until he can hunt successfully on his own.

♪♪ With his hunting skills improving, this may very well be the last big meal Olimba shares with him.

♪♪ ♪♪ Makumbi is on the verge of independence, an uncertain, but exciting new phase of life.

♪♪ By now, most of the stork chicks have migrated to the river.

And someone has followed them.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Makumbi, more focused than ever.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ The birds may be one step ahead, but Makumbi perseveres.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ The storks keep returning.

An invitation to keep trying.

♪♪ ♪♪ He needs to aim higher.

To fulfill his potential, he needs to draw on his inner predator.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Out of a flurry of dust, Makumbi rises, a victorious hunter.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ In a short while, the last storks will leave the area to follow the rains.

And where does that leave a bird hunter?

Makumbi must add another feather to his bow.

He is too inexperienced to take on a baboon.

But his mother isn't.

Using the gully as cover, she eyes up a target.

♪♪ Oblivious to his mother's efforts.

Makumbi strolls into the baboons' line of sight.

[ Baboons screeching ] A hunt ruined.

Olimba is not impressed.

♪♪ ♪♪ When Makumbi approaches his mother, he is met with hostility.

She is anything but pleased to see him.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Baboon calling ] [ Growling ] Catching an unfamiliar scent from his mother, he seems confused by its meaning.

With the baboons still up in arms, Makumbi's constant attention is unwelcome.

[ Baboons calling ] [ Growling ] ♪♪ [ Calling ] [ Growling ] [ Baboons calling ] Makumbi emerges with an injured eye.

His mother just taught him a painful lesson.

Olimba stalks off, shifting her focus back to the baboons.

Their attention is now only on Makumbi.

He is young and still insecure around baboons, especially now with his eye injury.

He is no match for an adult baboon.

But his mother steps in.

[ Baboons screeching ] [ Screeching ] Makumbi moves to join his mother, who is making the baboons very nervous.

♪♪ [ Baboons screeching ] [ Growling ] [ Baboons screeching ] ♪♪ Leopards will grab any hunting opportunity, but Olimba seems more driven by frustration.

♪♪ A final goodbye to her son.

It may seem ruthless, but it's a mother's way of steering him to independence.

As he watches her go, his calls are lost to his mother, who has prepared him for the life of a solitary cat.

♪♪ Olimba is moving on.

She has done what she could to raise her cub to sub-adulthood, and now it's time they each go their own way.

Such is the life of a leopard.

A life lived alone.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ A solitary life is tough for any young leopard.

♪♪ Makumbi is facing an even more challenging start.

♪♪ His eye is badly infected.

♪♪ How will he be able to hunt?

How will he fend for himself?

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Several weeks have gone by, and Olimba is back at her favorite hunting grounds.

She hasn't fed for several days.

And she knows the gully provides her best chance of success.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ In the gully, invisibility sometimes works both ways.

♪♪ ♪♪ To locate her prey, Olimba must put her acute senses to work.

Subtle sounds are key when hunting blind.

♪♪ [ Flies buzzing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ A final and fatal embrace.

With no hyenas around to take her hard-earned meal, Olimba gets to keep her kill.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Resilience is a quality that enables animals to survive the hardest of times.

♪♪ Makumbi has pulled through.

Time has been kind to him.

He is now blind in his right eye, but that hasn't stopped him from what he does best, hunting birds.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Smaller prey will nourish him until he grows strong enough to take down antelope.

♪♪ ♪♪ Makumbi is now a year and a half old.

He is fully independent from his mother, and despite his clouded vision, he is surviving as a solitary, strong-willed hunter.

♪♪ ♪♪ Olimba, too, has reached a pivotal point in her life.

She is ready to become a mother again.

She leaves messages and calls out for a mate.

♪♪ [ Growling ] Soon a male will reappear from the shadows.

It is time to raise a new litter of cubs.

[ Growling ] Olimba is ready to continue her legacy.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.