Botswana Blog #1 Blogs inspired by my recent trip to Botswana, which got me thinking about what we can learn from raw animal behaviour.
Watching the young leopard alongside his kill, you can’t not be impressed by his confidence and daring. He’d brought down a full-size male Kudu, which our tracker tells us, is highly unusual for a leopard of this age and size. The Kudu is at least four times as big as him. The leopard, having stuffed his face, lays in the sun with a full, protruding belly. From time to time, he grabs the Kudu by the neck and tries to move him but it’s too large for him to even drag into more privacy, away from our prying camera lenses, let alone get it up a tree, as he would do normally with his prized kill.
I may imagine it, but I think the leopard looks a little bemused. He has eaten his fill for now, but he can’t leave it. The other predators and scavengers will take it if he does and he wants to keep going back to it –he’s earned his food for the next few days with this hunt. In the excitement of the chase he obviously hadn’t quite thought this through! Had he literally bitten off more than he could chew? As night fell, we left the leopard with his dilemma and headed to our camp, just a few minutes away.
During the night, we heard a lion roaring loudly, very close by.
At first light, we went to check on the leopard but he was nowhere to be seen. In his place was a magnificent (and rather smug looking) adult male lion, guarding the carcass. In the night, the lion had challenged the leopard for his vulnerable, ground based kill and he had won. The leopard had lost his breakfast.
The leopard’s story made me think. He’d found the courage to go for the bigger goal even though that wasn’t the norm. He had taken a risk and reaped the reward. But then, he had lost his prize to a rival.
So, was it worth it or should he have stuck to what was safe, fitted his usual modus operandi (choosing prey he could get up a tree) and was therefore lower risk to him? Yet as we grow, how do we expand our boundaries and test our limitations if we don’t take some risks, try something different and accept that any gains may only be for the short term?
I thought about some risks I had taken in my life, some that paid off and some that hadn’t, and actually on reflection, all of them gave me some new insight, some learning, a new sense of what I might be able to achieve. Temporary setbacks were always overcome and I was moving on to the next thing. My own experience tells me then that taking measured risks can reap rewards. The leopard has learnt that it can take on bigger prey that will feed it for longer, meaning less hunting needed, but also that if it wants to keep the prey he needs to have the strength required to get it up a tree. This strength will come as it grows and matures.
Is it better then, knowing his current limitations, to push himself and accept the risk of failure? Or should he stick to what he knows he can sensibly handle until it’s safe for him to try something bigger again?
We’re all have different attitudes to risk and reward so there’s no one right answer. But the next time you’re faced with an opportunity to test your own limitations, consider the leopard: Are you willing to be like him and try going for the bigger goal, whatever the ultimate outcome might be?