By Emma Pearson @emma_pear
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The herd were making one of the first crossings of the Mara River in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, when the powerful predator made its move.
The compelling images were taken by Italian wildlife photographer, Paolo Torchio, who had originally planned to photograph crocodiles in the Mara River on August 25.
It was purely by accident that he captured the rare and spectacular event on camera - when he noticed the male leopard slinking out of the bushes.
A vast cloud of dust was thrown into the air as the wildebeest made a frantic attempt to escape.
But a young calf didn’t stand a chance against the cat’s prowess and within a few seconds the leopard had claimed its prize.
Paolo, originally from Turin, Italy, has lived in Nairobi, Kenya for 25 years and has played an active role in wildlife conservation in the country.
The 54-year-old said: “While I was in Maasai Mara I had the privilege to witness and take a full series of photographs of a very rare and spectaular event.
“During one of the first crossings of wildebeest through the Mara River a male leopard sneaked out from the bushes, attacked and successfully killed one – all just in front of my camera.
“This kind of hunt has rarely been documented in the past.
“My target was to take pictures of the very hungry crocs - who had been fasting for almost a year - attacking and killing the wildebeest in the river.
“It was a long four-day wait but that morning finally the herd was ready to cross and I was ready with my camera positioned.
“Suddenly, as soon as the column of animals started running and jumping in the water from the bushes came out a leopard that, like me, was patiently waiting for that moment.
“Helped by the dust and by the commotion of hundreds of animals running, the leopard snaked in between the herd looking for the right catch.
“It was a very dangerous moment for the big cat because even a small mistake could result in it being killed in the stampede.
“The leopard made a couple of foiled attempts but finally saw a young one coming and intercepted him - jumping from a rock without hesitation.
“In a matter of a few seconds the young wildebeest was captured and suffocated by the big cat. On seeing it the other wildebeest looked over, puzzled by the event.
“Leopards are shy and elusive killers. Normally they use the cover of the bush, but this time the male leopard decided to work clearly in the open and in full daylight- a kind of action rarely documented before.”
The annual migration sees over a million wild animals move from one country to another, spanning the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Thousands of wildebeest are killed by crocodiles during the crossing but they are usually safe before entering the water.