The carcass hanging from the leopard’s mouth was dark and blended almost perfectly into the bark of the tree trunk — but some of its furs remained.
There was no mistaking the rosettes, the paws, or the canine-filled rictus: the dead animal was also a leopard.
The photos of the cat and its carrion, taken in South Africa by Sergey Gorshkov, were published in 2016 by National Geographic. The magazine said leopard cannibalism was not uncommon — it had described in a 2013 report how a male wolfed down a cub in the Okavango Delta.
“Circumstantial evidence” suggested the tigress was dragged 700 meters by the tiger “during a territorial fight”, said Krishnamurthy, also pointed out that cannibalism was “not uncommon” among tigers. An expert quoted by News18 said more proof was needed to determine how exactly the slain cat died. (K Krishnamurthy also said scavengers might have eaten it after it was killed — and ruled out poaching.)
Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that big cats are not averse to killing their own kind and eating them. National Geographic reports explain how male lions dethroning pride leaders kill and eat cubs so the lionesses go into heat (allowing the newcomers to father their own offspring) — and how a similar motive can explain why male leopards kill cubs.
Besides big cats, cannibalism has been observed in other animal species, including sharks, snakes, and spiders. In 2016 the Economist magazine headlined an article about female dark fishing spiders eating their mates after sex Nature’s “cruelest one-night stand”.
What do animals stand to gain by eating their own kind? WIRED.com describes possible reasons, including getting much-needed nutrients, making sure offspring are fed and — believe it or not — stress.
We’ve ruined the Lion King and the Jungle Book for you, haven’t we?