Acrobatic Leopard Raids Eagle’s Nest in Samburu

While on a game drive in the Samburu National Reserve in north-central Kenya, we came across a leopard relaxing in the forked branches of a tree on the banks of the muddy Ewaso Nyiro River.

She was fast asleep in the branches, and after some time photographing the lazy feline, we prepared to move on.

But just as we started the Land Cruiser, the leopard stood up and began to stretch on her perch.

“Let’s wait a bit to see what she does,” said our guide, Jacob, from the nearby Sasaab Lodge, where I was staying for the weekend.

The leopard made the usual sleepy cat movements – taking forever to get up – but once she was fully stretched, she peered up at the top of the tree, and then suddenly jumped up onto the branch above.

A leopardess peers up at something in the top of the tree. Photo by Paul Steyn

The nimble feline then walked across a thin branch that was parallel to the ground, and at one point she was standing directly above another Land Cruiser, looking as though she would jump on board.

The leopard sits above another Sasaab game viewer. Photo by Paul Steyn


But she looked upward again, and it was obvious that she was focusing on a raptor’s nest at the top of the tree with a large eagle inside it.

The leopard navigated her way back across the branch, and then quickly moved further up the tree. She kept climbing, and climbing, from one branch to the next, until she was right at the top of the tree, in the canopy, just below the nest.

The leopard begins to scramble up the tree. Photo by Paul Steyn
Photo by Paul Steyn


Photo by Paul Steyn

Inside the nest, the eagle had now noticed the leopard just below, and was clearly unhappy about the situation.

There was a brief standoff – where the eagle would not leave the nest, and the leopard sat below, watching, until suddenly the bird took off towards the safety of a nearby tree.

The eagle notices the leopard coming up towards the nest. Photo by Paul Steyn
The eagle flies off, leaving the leopard alone with the nest. Photo by Paul Steyn
The leopard tries its best to raid the nest. Photo by Paul Steyn

Even though the eagle had departed the nest, the leopard was still doing her best to get inside it. Perhaps there were chicks in the nest, or eggs, that the feline was after.

She attempted various routes into the nest, scratching at the branches that were stacked up to fortify the structure. But it was built in such a position that the leopard was finding it impossible to get right to the top of the tree.


Eventually, she decided that perhaps this exercise was too precarious, and the prize too small, and she began her quick descent to the bottom of the tree and moved off down the river in search of other dining opportunities.

After an unsuccessful raid, she descends the tree in search of something else to eat. Photo by Paul Steyn
Photo by Paul Steyn
Photo by Paul Steyn

All photos by Paul Steyn, taken while on safari with Sasaab Lodge in Samburu Land, North Central Kenya.

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Meet the Author
Paul Steyn is a widely-published multi-media content producer from South Africa, and regular contributor to National Geographic News and blogs. Having guided throughout Africa for some years, he went on to edit a prominent travel and wildlife magazine, and now focuses on nature storytelling in all its forms. In 2013, he joined a team of researchers and Bayei on a 250km transect of the Okavango Delta on traditional mokoros. In 2016, he accompanied the Great Elephant Census team in Tanzania and broke the groundbreaking results on National Geographic News . Contact: Follow Paul on Twitter or Instagram