Over the last few months we have watched as Maxabeni and Mahlathini males have jostled for territory. Even though Maxabeni has had the upper hand and almost killed Mahlathini the last time they fought. This has not deterred him from pushing back and trying to hold on to the territory he has just set up. Each time they pick up each others scent the salivating begins and we follow and watch as they check where their competitor is. At night their rasping territorial calls float through the cool night air filling us with the anticipation of what is to come.
While on drive the other morning, a male leopard was found and I responded to the sighting. I couldn’t believe when I got in that it was Maxabeni, deep inside of Mahlathini’s territory. He was walking around as if he owned the place and was marking territory as he went along. My thought is that their meeting a few nights before had urged Maxabeni deeper into enemy territory to try drive off his rival. Although the last meeting did not end in a fight, this constant coming together can only lead to more bloodshed in the future.
Maxabeni stopped at a waterhole as a hyena came charging in to see if there was anything to steal. Maxabeni watched with all the confidence in the world and waited for the unwelcome guest to finish drinking before he slipped in for a drink himself. After the drink he quietly moved away, marking over every point that he could smell Mahlathini.
As he moved into some thicker bush his body language changed as he spotted a big waterbuck bull that was no more than 20 metres away. He watched and waited but decided that the waterbuck was too big a target and nonchalantly strolled toward the waterbuck. The waterbuck sensed that he had already won the battle and decided to drive home the advantage and barrelled toward the leopard. Maxabeni sped off and sensing the two massive horns behind him decided to climb into a tree to avoid his aggressor. What an amazing spectacle seeing the prey chase the predator. After catching his breath he again dropped from the tree and went to sleep in the drainage line.
BY: RICHARD DE GOUVEIA (LITTLE BUSH CAMP RANGER)