Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. One of our all time favorite big cats - Zawadi the female leopard, daughter of Half-Tail of Big Cat Diary fame. Zawadi means gift in Swahili, and what a gift Zawadi was to all who knew her. We followed her from the time she was born in early 1996 until she disappeared and died at sixteen years of age in 2012. This was the last occasion we photographed her. We had discovered her with a young cub of around five months old who we named Malika (meaning angel) - she was just the most adorable cub. At one point during the morning Zawadi climbed the trunk of the magnificent and ancient fig tree growing atop one of the Maasai Mara’s most iconic locations - Leopard Gorge - a deep rocky cleft in the acacia woodlands north of the reserve.
You could not imagine a more majestic location to see a leopard. It was where Half-Tail gave birth to Zawadi in 1996. Zawadi had a clear view from her aerial perch over the surrounding acacia woodlands, checking for danger in the form of lions or hyenas - and for prey. A few days after we took this photograph Zawadi and Malika disappeared. We never saw or heard of either of them again.
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