While sitting around a camp fire, older experienced hunters like to tell you that you should never look into the eyes of a leopard. Apparently it makes them very aggressive and defensive. Is this true or is it a case of the mysterious leopard wanting to keep the secrets in their eyes away from their main enemy, man?
The people of Shayamanzi made it a passionate life goal and project to unravel the mystery surrounding leopards and to become a voice for their stories. The "Leopard Mystery Album" is dedicated to all leopards and leopard lovers worldwide.
We decide to go ahead and make eye contact with the leopards and to build a relationship of trust. Perhaps man and leopard can learn to trust each other and associate for a moment. Within these surreal becoming-one-moments we might able to see, hear and experience each other´s stories, pain, happiness and dreams. After these becoming-one-moments man and leopard need to share their mysterious experiences with their own species.
THE EYES OF SECRETS: This is this special leopard project’s theme song. Well-known artists have sung this song and in this way help to convey an important conservation message. It makes sense to ask for hunters’ support for this project, as most hunters hunt for reasons of meat and biltong and will seldom kill predators without reason. Leopards are an endangered species and are “begging” someone to tell their story, accept them as part of creation and allow them a place in the sun too. After 24 years at Shayamanzi and a leopard project of 12 years during which 27 leopards have been handled, watched, photographed and of which most have been released, and after hundreds of hours on film recorded day and night and during summer and winter, these beautiful, shy, lone cats remain a mystery.
It is interesting to hear the many stories and remarks about these cats, although more often than not the game farmers have not actually seen leopards on their farms. Few things will cause a male leopard to run away… except humans. Why? What do their eyes see, for millions of years already, when they look at humans? Are the things told about leopards facts or perceptions, considering that their numbers are dwindling? Maybe it would help if leopards get the chance to tell their own stories on camera, as what is told and retold by people seem to reduce the leopard’s chance of survival.
This is exactly what Shayamanzi does. Unmanned cameras are situated in the veld and around the leopard camps and controlled via internet from Pretoria. Piece by piece, bit by bit and photo by photo the secrets in their eyes are unravelled and they at long last get a chance to tell their own stories.
The leopard is part of the Big Five and probably the most beautiful and most popular animal that draws many tourists to spend their dollars in this country. Dollars that are exchanged for many rands to help strengthen the economy and to help create a better life for thousands of South Africans. Ironically, the Big Five are fighting for survival and little of the thousands of dollars is used to protect and conserve this top export/tourism product for future generations.
Please read the lyrics of the song, The Eyes of Secrets on the music video. See, experience and think about the words and leopard images in slow motion and tell this story to others, family, friends and children.
The leopards in the video were filmed at the Shayamanzi camps. The two females are Zaza and Ziana, leopards that have been watched and filmed for over six years.