Terrifying jump: A leopard charges at a gazelle and catches it mid-air in an astonishing sequence

Dramatic photos show the moment a hungry leopard flies though the air in order to pounce on a doomed impala and snare it for lunch.

The incredible speed the big cat hits the antelope at causes them to spin around as the feline digs its claws into its prey on the Mashatu reserve in Tuli region of Botswana.

The impala appears to launch a counter-attack as it lowers its horns towards the leopard as they rotate during the split-second strike.

But the forsaken animal can do little as the predator sinks its teeth into its face, wraps its claws around the beast and holds a vice-like grip.

Photographer Kevin Dooley, 57, took the stunning shots after trailing the leopard for a few days.

Mr Dooley said: ‘This was certainly a highlight image of my life.’

‘We were photographing this leopard with her cub. Both were showing signs of being hungry. Soon the leopard left the cub in the safety of a thick bush and headed down the river bed in search of food.’

He added: ‘We held tight and let the situation play out, with the leopard scanning the area and looking for a way to sneak up on the impala without being detected.

‘The leopard finally appeared, I saw a paw, a nose, her head, her body in full on hunt mode, travelling at a high rate of speed.

‘I could not believe my eyes.’

Contact: This is the dramatic moment a leopard appeared to fly though the air in order to pounce on a doomed impala and snare it for lunch

Approach: The big cat starts its jump as it sprints towards the female antelope. The beast begins to open its mouth as its prey desperately tries to dash away

Pounce: The leopard extends its paws and opens up its body as it hurtles through the air towards the impala, which strangely seems to change direction towards the predator – possibly to avoid a fallen branch

Gripping: The ruthless leopard sinks its claws its prey and starts to wrap its arms around its lunch. In a last-ditch effort to escape, the impala starts to jump to try to avoid the big cat’s grasp

 

Photographer Kevin Dooley, 57, took the stunning shots after trailing the leopard for a few days on the Mashatu reserve in the Tuli region of Botswana

Counter attack: The impala appears to launch a fightback as it lowers its horns towards the leopard as they rotate during the split-second strike

Desperate: The impala makes one last attempt to escape as it lands with its front hooves on the ground while the leopard remains airborne

Defeat: But the forsaken animal can do little as the predator sinks its teeth into its face, wraps its claws around and holds a vice-like grip

Hunted: The leopard, which had been a few days without food for her and her cub, finally hits the ground and begins to savour its victim

Mr Dooley said: ‘We were photographing this leopard with her cub. Both were showing signs of being hungry. Soon the leopard left the cub in the safety of a thick bush and headed down the river bed in search of food.’ After the attack, he added: ‘I could not believe my eyes’

Relax: The leopard holds on tight to the impala’s face as it lies down on the dried up river bed. It appears to calm down as it realises there is no escape for its prey

Victory: The big cat looks majestic as it proudly sits on top of the impala it has just hunted. The beast will finally be able to feed its cub after days without food

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