It was a very hot and dry afternoon; we were out on safari with one thing in mind, to find the elusive leopard! Try as we may throughout the safari there were no tracks to be found, I soon realised it was too hot out for a leopard to be walking around. We spent our time with a big herd of elephants quenching their thirst at a watering hole in the afternoon sun and then decided it was our turn to enjoy a drink while watching a gorgeous sunset. Once we were back on the road by the sounds of the radio many of the rangers out had the same plan as us and we were all working together hoping one of us would be lucky enough to spot a leopard now with it getting dark and much cooler. Then it happened, Mike, one of our Bush Lodge rangers called in saying he had found a beautiful female leopard, Warthog Wallow, hunting some impala in a large open area. We were a distance away and made our way closer to the sighting. As I entered the area I was joined by another two vehicles, it was already getting later and most vehicles had returned to the lodge but we all agreed it was worth staying out to see this leopard in action.
We then spotted her crouching low in the grass doing the famous leopard crawl to close the distance between her and the impala. We had all of the lights off as to not give away her presence or to shine on the impala. Luckily for us, there was a beautiful full moon out which, although was not ideal for the leopard, we could still seen her in action. With a wind blowing the impala got nervous and one broke away from the herd running straight towards the cat lying flat in the grass. She jumped out of her cover with tremendous speed and managed to bite directly to the neck immobilising her prey. We put on our spot lights and made our way closer to see exactly what happened.
We arrived to a scene of her just finishing off her prey and we saw the impala take its last breath. With all the impala going mad with an alarm call in the background it had unfortunately attracted the unwanted attention of two hungry hyenas. She immediately stood up and surveyed the situation, then quickly decided it was time to move her prey before the impending trouble arrived.
She began to drag her prey to a nearby thicket and we were almost certain she would put her prey up a tall tree in the middle of the thicket away from the intruding hyenas that were following the scent trail where she had dragged the kill but were still unable to locate her.
She surprised us once again as she went straight past the thicket and continued further out on the open area, then it occurred to us, her mind was focused on her cub who we assumed was waiting in the dry riverbed about 200 meters away. At this point we had been there over an hour and had witnessed something truly amazing. We left her then a little out of breath and hoping she would be able to finish the mission back to the cub with her prize. She was looking right past us at the hyenas that were still far away at this point.
We returned early the next morning with no leopard or kill in sight. The tracks in the sand told us how the story played out and it looked like the hyenas found the kill before she got to the safety of the riverbed. Unfortunate after all her hard work but if we know this female as well as what we do it won’t be long before we find her on another successful kill with her cub.