Wildlife photographer Hannes Lochner spent 750 days in the harsh surroundings of the Kalahari Desert to chronicle the life of a female leopard and in doing so delved into a dark and fascinating nocturnal world of big cats and other predators.
Through his incredible project, Mr Lochner, 41, documented the struggle of Luna the leopard to raise cubs in one of the most punishing environments on earth, where big predators become more active at night, and when the photographer’s visibility is severely diminished. Undeterred by the threat of the big cats, Mr Lochner spent thousands of hours in his Jeep at night, capturing remarkable moments with Luna, a pride of lions, a pack of jackals and other predators.
Mr Lochner travelled a colossal 100,000km during his time at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa. The images, collected in his new book ‘The Dark Side of the Kalahari‘, capture the awe-inspiring beauty and breathtaking diversity of life in the region. Shooting mostly at night, the Cape Town-born photographer had to brave night-time temperatures of -13 in the winter, while trying to catch up on his sleep in sweltering 40C heat in the day.
‘I have always been fascinated by leopards, and my dream was to follow and document a leopard raising cubs in this Kalahari hostile environment,’ Hannes said.’There are few female leopards in the south of the park, and we started tracking one with a cub of 12 months old. She was not very accommodating, and took us at least three months to get used to us. She didn’t have a tracking device so we had to track her the hard way. Lots of hours in the bush.’
Also, unusually for leopards, she was regularly joined by ‘family man’ Oscar, the father of all three litters.
Lochner was accompanied on his travels by his partner Noa Koefler, who did all the film work for the project. Her video clips can be seen on the App that will be released at the end October to accompany Lochner’s images.
Among the many predators in the desert that would eat Luna’s cubs were the lions. Luna was alone in the desert protecting and feeding herself and her cubs; the lions worked in a pride and there were always
members on high alert for opportunities for food. During the day, the pride of lions would often rest – as would Luna – as the temperatures rose and the flies came out
As the sun set, the big cats, including Luna and her cubs and the lions, would seek out opportunities for food and Mr Lochnerwould begin taking his photos.
Asked to nominate his favourite moment from his two years in the Kalahari, Lochner goes for his time photographing Luna’s cubs.
‘They are amazing animals and incredible to photograph, we spent time at at least 12 different den sites,’ he added.