Night Vision Camera Films Leopard Hunting Baboons in World-First Footage

The BBC has released its first episode of Mammals which featured astonishing night vision camera footage of a leopard hunting sleeping baboons 66 feet up a tree in total darkness.

In world-first footage of its kind, the BBC showed how leopards’ incredible night vision has allowed them to expertly hunt and kill prey in the pitch black of night.

In the opening scene of the latest series of Mammals, a huge female leopard is seen prowling and preparing to hunt a troop of yellow baboons resting in trees, 66 feet above the forest floor.

The BBC cameras switch to night vision to imitate the leopard’s incredible sight adaptations, which have evolved to see in total darkness for hunting at night. Leopards have a reflective layer behind the retina called a tapetum that can amplify the smallest amount of light.

The camera reveals how the big cat can decipher its prey who are settling down for the night in the tall trees. Meanwhile, the resting baboons, who have poor night vision, are completely blind to the leopard approaching them.

However, while they may not have the leopard’s sight, the baboons have excellent hearing to alert them to threats in the dark. Eventually, chaos ensues when the baboons hear the big cat.

Nonetheless, a mother and baby baboon are filmed taking a wrong turn. They get trapped at the end of the tree and the leopard goes in for the kill.

In the episode, the BBC cameras gruesomely capture how the leopard makes a baboon his dinner — with viewers being able to see the blood dripping down the branch of a tree even in black-and-white night vision.

‘The Most Astonishing Thing to Witness’

“I have to say it is the most astonishing thing to witness,” Stuart Armstrong, producer for Mammals first episode, which is entitled “Dark,” tells the BBC about the scene.

“In complete darkness, all you can see is the screen of your camera and spotting scopes which we use to highlight to the cameraman what’s going on.”

The filmmakers behind the first episode of Mammals wanted to show how animals, like leopards, had evolved to conquer the earth and be active at night.

“The leopards only hunt on the darkest night. If the moon is half full, they wait for it to set, so they have the advantage,” adds Armstrong.

“They can see in what to me is pitch black. But they’re not just seeing in pitch black; they are also running around in the canopy and jumping from branch to branch. They can judge distance in order to get their dinner.”