Leopard Queen, a film produced for National Geographic Channels by South African company Aquavision TV Productions, has been nominated for Best Animal Behavior Programme at the prestigious Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Jackson Hole takes place in Wyoming, US, from 3 to 7 October.
Executive produced by Peter Lamberti and Phil Fairclough, the film focuses on Manana, a wild leopard in the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Powerful, deadly and elusive, she could kill a man with ease, yet beside her sits John Varty, unarmed and unharmed. Varty is a renowned wildlife cameraman who has filmed Manana for the past 16 years. Her life on camera revealed intimate insights into the world of leopards: the constant threat of other predators, the endless struggles to keep her kills, and the often tragic battles to protect her cubs.
Varty witnessed remarkable behaviour rarely seen in the wild, from an aerial attack on her prey from the tree tops, to consuming her own dead cub as part of a heart-rending grieving process. Through the years of filming, Manana grew ever more accepting of Varty’s presence, and now at the end of her life the pair has formed a remarkable friendship. She not only tolerates his presence, but also actively seeks him out when he is in her vicinity – extraordinary considering that leopards are solitary and secretive, and rarely allow even other leopards into their space except to mate.
Manana’s greatest show of trust came in the last weeks of her life, as she allowed Varty to accompany her on foot on an impala hunt – perhaps the last big game hunt of her lifetime. This film plots the remarkable story of Manana and her relationship with Varty and opens a window into the secret life of a leopardess.