When a Leopard Refuses to Let Sleeping Wild Dogs Lie


“You should let sleeping dogs lie.” That’s the advice most of us get at a young age, and it’s fairly solid as life lessons can go. But have you ever wondered what would happen if somebody had to learn that lesson the hard way?

That’s what happened in South Africa during one photographer’s fateful visit. He was hoping to snap a few pics of exotic wildlife in action. However, he ended up at the center of a heartstopping encounter in which a leopard began sneaking up on a pack of sleeping wild dogs.

What makes these dogs so important, and did the leopard earn a bloody meal that day? Keep reading to discover the answers as well as a new life lesson straight from the photographer!

Our story begins in Kruger National Park

This story of an unexpected wildlife interaction begins in a very unexpected location. Kruger National Park is located in South Africa, and it serves as the perfect location to the kinds of animal interactions that are impossible to experience back home.

That was certainly the case with photographer John Fabiano. He specializes in wildlife photography, and one of his particular skills is taking photos that capture the amazing bond between humans and dogs. However, when he unexpectedly encountered a group of sleeping wild dogs, no gentle bonding occurred. Soon enough, this sighting became a matter of life or death!

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A wild dog sighting (and why these are so rare)

John Fabiano was particularly excited to see the wild dogs. If you’ve never been to Kruger National Park or similar destinations, you might wonder what makes this sighting so special. Why, to be blunt, would a world-traveling photographer be so jazzed to a group of sleeping wild dogs?

The short answer is that these particular wild dogs are endangered. That makes every sighting special, and as a photographer, it’s his job to capture such special moments. However, it wasn’t long before he had to ask himself a sobering question: was he about to helplessly document these endangered creatures getting killed by another wild animal?

The hidden danger lurking in the park

Sometimes, the best part about Kruger National Park is also the worst part. For example, a major part of why people like John Fabiano come to this park is that they never know what they will see next. In this case, though, the ambitious photographer spotted a leopard who was hoping to snack on the wild dogs while they slept!

This naturally put Fabiano in a bad position: at this point, there was nothing he could do to either ward the leopard off or warn the helpless dogs without putting himself and his guide in danger. While some photographers wrestle with the ethics of whether they should or should not intervene with what is happening, Fabiano was completely helpless to do anything but watch.

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Perfect conditions for a stealthy attack

Whether or not the leopard could successfully kill one or more of the sleeping wild dogs depended on a number of different factors. For example, everything from the weather to the terrain would either make his job a lot harder or a lot easier. Unfortunately for his prospective victims, the leopard had the absolute perfect conditions to pull off a stealth attack.

The good weather meant that the predatory cat could keep an eye on his targets. At the same time, he moved with the wind in such a way that the sleeping dogs wouldn’t catch his scent. Finally, the leopard covered his approach through a combination of silent footsteps and hiding behind tall bushes. Just like that, the leopard was only a few meters away from his next meal!

An unexpected (and unexpectedly happy) ending

At this point, things were looking pretty bad for the dogs. However, something both unexpected and simple happened at this point: one of the sleeping dogs woke up. The leopard had succeeded in getting very close to his prey, but that now meant there was nothing to keep this dog from seeing his would-be killer.

After that, things began moving very fast. The one dog alerted the others, and in no time, the entire pack of wild dogs was chasing the leopard off. As for the dogs, they had a real happy ending here: in addition to avoiding getting killed in their sleep, these dogs were able to return to their exact resting place for a very well-earned naptime. 

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A grateful photographer and an unforgettable story

To this day, John Fabiano is humbled and amazed that he got to be a part of this experience. Considering how rare and endangered the wild dogs are, it would have been awesome just to see them. Instead of just that, though, the photographer got to witness a life-and-death animal encounter that could have gone either way.

From this experience, he learned the importance of respecting nature and going where the road takes you. Of course, wherever the road leads, make sure you bring a good camera to document your adventures!