Leaving the lodge this morning one could feel the cold breeze in the air and as the big jackets started to make their first appearances this year, it is clear that winter is arriving at Sabi Sabi. As the sun’s rays started to peak over the horizon,exposing yet another magical African sunrise and the steam rose from the occupied termite mounts, anticipation for what the morning might hold was high.
The morning started off as it typically does with the rangers all heading out in their different directions. As the morning progresses, the tracks that the animals left during the night tell the trackers and rangers the possible movements of the animals and becomes the topic of chatter on the radio. As time lapses, the story of the night before begins to unfold.
The signs (that Solo and the Eyefield male had been there) of Sparta male lions lay in the sand and as soon as the guides started to pick up the tracks of the unmistakable trail of two large male lions, the search was on. Rangers and trackers had been following the signs of these two males through the property for sometime when another of the rangers came across the young Selati male leopard on the eastern reaches of the reserve, the same area where the tracking of Solo and Eyefield was taking place. It is always a pleasant surprise to see the Selati male as he is a beautiful leopard that is growing in stature with very relaxed mannerisms.
As the guests were enjoying the privilege of spending quality time with one of the most elusive animals in the wild, noise was picked up from a Tamboti thicket that could not have been more then twenty meters from the young Selati male. After closer investigation, it revealed that in the thicket Solo and Eyefield had managed to stay undetected and were feasting themselves on the remains of a large kudu bull.
With anticipation and adrenalin at an all time high after realising the close proximity of these two mortal enemies, we went on to watch as the young Selati male proceeded to inch himself closer and closer to the two sleeping beasts as they had gorged themselves on their meal. With hearts in our throats we watched as the Selati male did what all teenagers would do: push the boundaries as far as he could.
After sneaking within five meters of the two sleeping lions, the young leopard managed to grab onto a sizable piece of meat and sneak off undetected, or so we thought. Once the Selati male managed to get himself about 40 meters away from the lions, he proceeded to feast on his winnings at the base of a small Marula tree.
As solo woke and moved over to continue feeding, he picked up on the scent of the Selati male who was feasting on their prize. The look of rage on his face was clear as he picked up the pace and honed in on the Selati male. This resulted in the Selati male being chased up the small Marula tree, unfortunately losing his bounty in the process.
With Solo reclaiming the meat, he headed straight back to the thicket to continue to rest in the shade with his brother. To our amazement, as the young Selati male leopard descended the Marula tree, instead of fleeing as any leopard with a sense of self preservation would do, he made yet another approach at the lions and managed to grab the leg of the remains of the kudu and slipped away un noticed into the drainage line to enjoy his stolen bounty.
In reflection of the events the most likely reason for his behavior is that he had brought down the kudu himself and was then chased off by the two massive male lions. He would have decided that he was not going to leave empty handed. Even in the animal world teenagers push the boundaries, but one the thing for sure is that he is a very brave leopard and will be a big contender for territories when he fills out into his prime.
by: josh lee (bush lodge ranger)
images by: steve volkwyn, simon smit and richard de gouveia