If there ever was proof that your mother was right in telling you not to play with your food, this is it.
A baby monkey narrowly avoided becoming leopard lunch in the South African bush, after the hungry predator started playing games.
The young monkey was resting in a marula tree when the female leopard attacked, but despite catching the primate on at least three occasions, she kept setting it free to continue the playful chase.
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Grabbing dinner: The leopard locks eyes with its primate prey and prepares to jump for its throat – or so the monkey thinks
The pair played ‘cat-and-monkey’ for close to three hours, before it came to an end.
However, as the leopard was getting ready for game over, the tiny monkey managed to escape from the tree by bravely leaping from a tree and scurrying off into nearby reeds.
Safari tour leader, Gary Parker, 36, was able to catch the incredible moment after an urgent message came crackling through his radio whilst driving through the Sabi Sands of the South African bush.
Gary said ‘It was a calm summer’s morning when suddenly we received a very broken call over the two-way radio that we should come quickly.
‘I was shocked when I first arrived, I have heard snippets of behaviour of this sort in the past but never to this extent.’
On the menu: The leopard stands on its hind legs as it makes one of its initial attempts tries to catch the monkey in the tree in South Africa
The one that got away: The dance begins as the monkey escapes from the leopard’s claws
Up the tree: The leopard claws at the monkey as makes its way up a marula tree
Reaching out: It’s claws out for the predator and it is just inches away from grabbing hold of the monkey’s leg
Considering a diet? The leopard catches the tail of the monkey for a moment before letting it go, continuing the chase
‘However, I soon began explaining to my guests that we were very privileged to witness such a scene and that this is was nature in its true form.
‘The leopard was a young female that was hunting, I can only guess that it was a game of cat and mouse and was using the monkey to test her skills.
‘On at least three occasions, the leopard got a hold of its prey and then for some reason, let it go, I imagine it was to just keep the game going.
‘Eventually, the monkey leapt from the top of the tree, followed by the leopard to safety.
‘I don’t think she intentionally let it go, I think the monkey had a very lucky escape.’
Hello lunch, let’s dance: Neither leopard nor monkey makes a move as they face off in the top of the marula tree in Sabi Sands, South Africa
Not letting go this time: The leopard stalks the tiny baby monkey to the very edge of a tree branch in the final stages of the chase
Jump for freedom: The leopard makes one last desperate jump as it realises the monkey is making a swift escape into the nearby bushes