What do you see in this leopard’s eyes? Is it hunger, determination, an iron focus? Think about that for a second before you scroll down to read the real story from photographer Morkel Erasmus.

Perception is often all we get from a photograph—the real story remains a mystery. Fortunately, that won’t be the case here.


What you’re looking at is a male leopard named the “Camp Pan Male,” a 16-year-old fighter who is 100% wild. He is also very old, by leopard terms, especially considering the number of males he’s had to take on in his decade and a half of existence.

Here’s the story behind the image, shared with permission from Morkel’s blog:

There’s a very compelling story to this image – it was taken at the end of a very emotional sighting of him trying his best to feed on a kill he’d stolen from another leopard. His legs were wobbly, his hips looked cripple, and his teeth were worn down. He couldn’t get into the very small tree that the kill was hoisted in.


Anyway, here he was lying in the grass after exerting all his energy to grab a bite or two…and as he longingly looked up at the kill he was unable to wrest free from the branch it was snuggled into, he looked forlorn…defeated. I was looking into the eyes of a dying leopard. He knew it. I knew it.


“As of today he is still alive” continues Morkel. “It’s merely a week after we were there, but his condition was pretty poor, and we were probably some of the last people to see this leopard alive… and that makes this image special to me.”

Now look back at the photograph below. What do you see in this leopard’s eyes now?

To see more from Morkel, be sure to follow him on 500px, visit his website, keep up with him through his blog, or show him some love on Twitter and Facebook.