sabi sabi ranger stories
leopard gets revenge
Our intention that morning was to go back to an area where we had heard lions calling the night before, to see if they had crossed into our property - well, that was the plan anyway...
Not long out of Bush Lodge, we spotted a hyena crossing the road in front of us. It crossed rather hurriedly and looked as if it was carrying something in its mouth. We followed up, and sure enough, it was a female spotted hyena carrying the remains of a bushbuck kill. The actions of the hyena told us that the kill had been stolen from another predator - in this case, more than likely a leopard. We understood why she was in such a hurry.
Knowing that the hyenas had a den on the property, we decided to keep following. It was evident by the fullness of her stomach that this female had already eaten her fill from the carcass. Carrying a half eaten bushbuck isn't all that easy, and she had to keep stopping to adjust her grip on the carcass, each time looking very nervously behind her for the predator who might be following the drag marks and scent being left behind. She was right to be nervous.
The hyena stopped to drink from a small pan, dropping the carcass in the water for protection. It is very unlikely that a cat would go into the water to fetch it. She had a drink, picked up the carcass again and as she got to the edge of the pan, dropped it and spun around, facing the direction she had just come from, looking as alert as ever and extremely nervous.
As we watched, a male leopard came bursting out of the surrounding bush, growling and intent on getting his kill back. The sound of the charge is something I never want to experience on foot, and I'm not surprised the hyena took the sensible choice and tucked tail and ran, as this is one of the biggest male leopards on our reserve. He searched frantically around the water for the carcass, located it, and with what seemed like lightning speed, snapped it up. True to my tracker's predictions, he went straight to the nearest Marula tree and hoisted himself and the kill out of reach of the hyena, which had come running back onto the scene.
The power and strength of the leopard was awesome. It was up in the tree in no time. By the time we had moved around for a better angle, the hyena was back and the leopard had positioned the kill securely. He stood proud in the tree over his kill catching his breath and surveying the surrounding bush for any other possible intruders. Once satisfied he settled in to eat what remained of his bushbuck.
After a short while another twist unfolded. A young female leopard had obviously also come across the drag marks and followed them. She sheepishly approached the area, going first to the pan of water, sniffing around and then made her way over towards the tree. We thought we were in for a tussle between the two leopards, but the male appeared too engrossed in eating and only gave a few warning growls. The female took up position under the tree and in a way begged for some food. All she was going to get were scraps that would fall as the male ate - definitely not enough to satisfy her hunger. The male had now eaten most of the kill and the remains could no longer be secured in the tree, so he brought the little that was left down to finish on the floor under a nearby thicket of vegetation. The female went up the tree to see what scraps had been left there, but after seeing there wasn't much, she came down and went to drink some water from the pan.
The leopard, triumphant on this occasion and with a satisfied hunger, lay in the shade of the thicket to sleep the day away, recovering his energy levels to be ready for another night of hunting.