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Leopards

Namibia is purported to have some of the most beautiful postage stamps in the world. But what’s more fascinating are the stories behind the artful images they depict—plant and animal life, traditional cultures, history and landmark events. Many people are unfamiliar with Namibia—until they visit on our motorcycle safaris and fall in love with it.

Here we explore two stamps that pay homage to the leopard.

Namibia Stamps leopardRudyard Kipling is credited with creating one of the best-remembered fables of the ages. “In the “Just So Stories” he describes how the leopard looked “like a sunflower against a tarred fence” when he entered the forest from the veld until the Ethiopian kindly painted the five-dotted rosettes which cover the leopard’s coat to this day.” [1]

Ancient Greeks believed the leopard to be a hybrid between lion and panther. Beauty, power, stealth, and grace, are terms commonly used to describe the solitary and predominantly nocturnal leopard.

A master of camouflage and stealth, the leopard’s secretive existence has ensured its survival, relying on those attributes to surprise its prey. It prefers to play it safe and avoids high-risk situations. For example, it won’t risk injury by defending a kill. The leopard is so strong that it often hauls its kills into the branches of trees, hoping to keep them safe from scavengers.

As powerful and fearsome as the big cat is, it’s seemingly shy and acquiescing, often letting lions and hyena steal its kill. Sensitive to noise, it prefers to flee danger rather than fight.

stamp leopard sheila nowers 1998 webFemales can give birth at any time of year, usually producing 2-3 grayish cubs with barely visible spots, raising them in dense cover or rocky crevices away from danger. Just to be sure, she moves them from one safe location to another until they’re able to hunt and fend for themselves—about 18 months. Mom has a white tip on her tail that serves as a beacon for them to follow when they’re out and about.

Leopard’s range has shrunk considerably over the years and it’s now listed as near-threatened. On the verge of extinction in North Africa, it is still widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, including throughout Namibia. Although it will drink water if available, it obtains most of its moisture from the body fluids of its prey.

Paw prints are often found, but the elusive cats are rarely seen.

“When walking amongst the trees, in the mountains or in the Fish River Canyonn, you may have the slight unsettling feeling that Leopard is watching from above, his mottled coat blending perfectly in the background.”[2]


 

Source: Stamps and Stories, Vol. 1, 50 Stories on Namibia’s Postal Stamps, Gondwana Collection Namibia, & NamPost, 2012


 

[1] Stamps and Stories, p. 44

[2] Stamps and Stories, p. 46