By News24. Photo: Beverley Joubert
Mutare - Here's one way to get out of evening prep: Just say you've heard a leopard.
Pupils at a well-known boys' high school in Zimbabwe's eastern city of Mutare had to be escorted back to their hostels at night in groups after a leopard was sighted nearby, the Manica Post reports.
The newspaper, which is published in Mutare, said two people living in the area bordering Cecil Kop Nature Reserve, on the edge of the city, claimed to have seen the leopard.
One woman says she saw the leopard "feasting on a baboon in broad daylight."
Boarders at Mutare Boys High School, which is near the reserve now think they've heard "weird sounds of leopards in the thickets," the paper reported.
Last week they managed to convince their head of hostel to get in his car and drive round the school fence to see if he could see the animal.
Superintendent Solomon Makore told the paper: "We had to move the pupils in groups from the classrooms to the hostels that night after the evening study at 20:00."
Local wildlife expert Mike Hitschmann confirmed in a telephone interview on Saturday that there definitely are leopards in Cecil Kop Nature Reserve.
But he said he'd be surprised if the animal that Mutare residents claim to have heard and seen really turns out to be a leopard.
"They [leopards] are very good at integrating into an urban environment but they're almost never seen," said Hitschmann, who is the member in charge of the reserve.
"There's no shortage of alternative prey like rabbits and duiker, so why would it be eating a baboon?" he added.
There are occasionally sightings of "leopards" reported in the Zimbabwean capital Harare. Usually these turn out to be servals.