This was one of those sightings where, as a ranger, you know what awaits is something rarely seen. Not only were there three cheetahs on a duiker kill, but a leopardess had just joined in to really mix things up. When we got there the mother cheetah and her two youngsters were nervously looking towards the base of a tree, standing a couple of meters from their fresh kill. Close by, the Little Bush female leopard was in a thicket, confidently sprawled out, with the nearby tree as an easy escape.
The three cheetahs, despite their numerical advantage, were extremely cautious. Their heads were being thrown towards the smallest noise, ears pricked and limbs primed to retreat. A high pitched growl was continually coming from the female, fueled by her instinct to provide. The three cheetahs were pacing around, but not one of them willing to come the extra foot closer.
Eventually the young male made a move, and slowly the others followed, careful to place their feet as quietly as possible. The closer they got the more the young male started to salivate. They now moved in unison, heads held low and tails between their legs try to intimidate the much shorter but stronger leopard.
The Little Bush female started to stir. She was not retreating, but in fact coming closer until she peered out of the thicket at the young male starting to feed on the lifeless duiker. She kept advancing; the mother cheetah monitored her advances and positioned herself in line with the kill but some distance off. Suddenly the Little Bush female charged, the cub ran off and the mother ran towards the confident leopard. In classic cheetah fashion, the mother slapped her front paws on the ground as she ran towards the leopard. The Little Bush female was too committed to turn back, she grabbed the carcass and to fully get her message across she ran at the defensive mother cheetah with the duiker in her mouth before darting off to the safety of the thicket.
The three cheetahs gathered again a few meters away and slowly moved back to the place where the duiker lay. They sniffed around, almost hopeful that their hard work was still there. Slowly they started to move off, accepting their loss. The young male looking back the most regularly, stopping every few meters as if he was planning to go back.