When my day began a few summery mornings ago, I had no idea that I was about to have my most memorable day on Londolozi thus far. I was guiding two South African guests who had grown up in a very similar environment to me. They really enjoyed just sitting and waiting with animals, even if there was not much happening, to watch how the animal’s behaviour changed throughout the drive. The day began rather slowly with my guests wanting to head out and find some rhino. Little did we know how much things were going to heat up (in the literal and metaphorical sense).

The Londolozi landscape offers a variety of vegetation and terrain, such as open grasslands, rocky outcrops, riverine bushveld and mixed woodland, which supports a diverse group of animal species. This particular drive we headed into the southern portion of Londolozi, which is dominated by open grasslands and is the perfect habitat for the grazing white rhino. The morning was already considered a great success when we came around the corner to find a few rhino wallowing in the mud at a waterhole. It was just what the guests had hoped for and the excitement levels escalated.

White rhino are social animals and will often form what is known as a crash of rhino. They often will congregate around water points where they are seen interacting. Here we saw more than one wallowing in the mud as it started warming up in the morning.

We sat with the crash as they rolled and frolicked in the mud for about 20 minutes. The large female then made her way out of the muddy pool and over to a fallen tree where she rubbed up against the make-shift scratching post with her young calf following just behind.

Rhino often wallow in mud as it helps to cool them down. Another main function of wallowing is to get rid of ticks. The density of the mud suffocates the ticks and ecto-parasites and the rubbing action then helps to remove them from the rough skin of these pachyderms.

While all of us sat entranced by the crash, Shadrack, our tracker, was scanning the surrounding area and pulled off an amazing spot of a leopard walking along one of the roads about 500m away. We quickly headed in his direction as it can be incredibly easy to lose sight of these camouflaged creatures in long grass. This was the first leopard sighting my guests had had at Londolozi. We identified the male leopard to be the Torchwood male, which made the sighting all the more special for me as I had never seen this particular leopard before. He is a male who holds territory falling mostly to the west of Londolozi and he was possibly investigating the option of expanding further eastwards. He walked past our vehicle and we followed him for a while, assuming he was on a territorial patrol but moments after that he started moving with a lot more intent and we came to realize he was on the search for something to eat.

The Torchwood male walks along the road, which offers the path of least resistance. This male leopard’s eyes seem lighter to me than his counterparts and are by far the most beautiful I have seen.

He walked up a prominent termite mound to observe the surrounding area, using it as a vantage point to see if there was any potential prey close by.

7
Torchwood 3:3 Male
2010 - present

The Torchwood male holds territory falling mostly to the west of Londolozi and is infrequently seen.

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Torchwood 3:3 Male

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Leopards are known as crepuscular animals, which means they are most active during dusk and dawn. This is when they do most of their hunting because they have superb nocturnal vision and have a better chance of moving undetected by prey. Their chances of hunting successfully are thus usually better at night and because of the cooler temperatures they use less energy. We were all intrigued to know if anything had happened despite the heat of the day though, so we headed back to see if we could find him during our afternoon drive.

This is where we all got to see something none of us were expecting…

When we found him, he had in fact made a kill. It was what he had made that startled us so much.

Can you spot the dead animal? The Torchwood male rests in the top of the tree during the afternoon warmth, knowing he has a secure meal less than 2m away from him in the fork (top right of the picture).

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. That’s an aardvark up in the tree! The look on my guests faces when they realized it was an aardvark said it all. It was a first for all of us, with none of us having seen an aardvark alive before, let alone one that had been hoisted into a tree by a leopard. Aardvarks, a strange looking creature that feeds on ants and termites, are nocturnal animals which are very rarely seen. Guides go many years in the bush without seeing these elusive creatures and now we had both an aardvark and a leopard in the same sighting. Although we felt rather sorry for the caught and now-deceased animal, it was incredibly exciting at the same as it was the furtherest thing from what we expected.

After watching him rest for a while, our patience paid off as the Torchwood male stood up, looked towards the aardvark and moved towards it to feed.

Aardvarks are certainly not small animals and can weight between 50-60kg and live for about 20 years. Their diet is comprised mainly of ants and termites.

Leopards are often seen feeding on only some parts of the intestines. Here he is feeding on a portion of them, ensuring there is nothing wasted as these predators are never sure when their next meal will be.

We all sat in awe as this leopard fed on the aardvark. In all likelihood, due to the nocturnal nature of aardvarks, the leopard made this kill the night before and returned to it after a morning of territorial patrol. Interestingly enough he had not fed on much of it though. After watching him feeding for roughly 30minutes, we began to question why there weren’t any hyenas around the base of the tree trying to scavenge pieces potentially dropping to the ground. It wasn’t a minute after we’d uttered the words that the Torchwood male lifted his head and gazed inquisitively past our vehicle where a hyena had just appeared.

The male leopard briefly stops feeding and stares behind us to identify what animal is approaching him.

With three spotted hyenas approaching at high speed and calling, the Torchwood male gave off a hissing snarl to try and scare them away.

It just goes to show that whilst on safari you never know what is going to happen or what awaits you around the next corner. I just hope the next time I see an aardvark, it will be under different circumstances though.

Involved Leopards

Torchwood 3:3 Male

Torchwood 3:3 Male

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About the Author

Guy Brunskill

Ranger

Guy grew up in the city of Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal. From a very young age he visited the bush each holiday. It was during these early years that his passion and interest was ignited for this incredible environment. After school he acquired a ...

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29 Comments

on A Day I Will Never Forget

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Alessandra Cuccato

Will you make a card for Torchwood? He is so amazing. My favourite leopard 🙂

Guy Brunskill

Hi Alessandra, now that he has been seen on our property a few times there is good chance we will make one for him.

Ramone Lewis

Add this leopard to the leopards of londolozi

Guy Brunskill

Hi Ramone, he certainly is now part of the leopards of Londolozi as he has been moving around the south western part of our property.

Dina Petridis

we did 24 safari and never got an aardvark in sight , dead or alive !
You may ask James !
Lucky you

Guy Brunskill

Hi Dina, yes I agree we were extremely lucky to have seen what we did, many guides even go for years without seeing one. You never quite know what is around the next corner at Londolozi so I will keep my fingers crossed you get the opportunity to see one on your next visit.

Marinda Drake

Wow! Amazing sighting Guy. We have never seen an Aardvark in the bush either and is on our bucket list. Hope it is a live one if we do. Still incredible.

Guy Brunskill

Thank you Marinda, we were extremely lucky and I too wish you can see one of these incredible creatures alive.

Lucie Easley

Certainly an amazing day of viewing wildlife. Thanks for sharing.

Guy Brunskill

It truely was, glad you enjoyed it Lucie.

Judy Hayden

What a great day for you all. He is beautiful and I wish him well for a long time. Great pictures.

Guy Brunskill

He certainly is such a beautiful male Judy and hopefully we will start seeing a lot more of him on our property.

Denise Vouri

What an amazing day you and your guests were fortunate enough to experience. The crash of rhinos was a real find and I especially liked your photo of the mud drenched member. The lighting was beautiful- your settings?
What can one say about a leopard sighting? It’s the best and to have the payoff of a bizarre kill , tucked into his chosen tree, is the icing on the cake. What a day!!

Guy Brunskill

Hi Denise, I was a very soft light so used a low ISO 300, f5.6 and shutter speed of 1/1000. It is one of my favorite sightings viewing these colossal mammals rolling around in the mud, have you seen it before? It was just one of those incredible days when luck was on our side for the sighting with the leopard and the aardvark, something I dont think I will ever see again.

Darlene Knott

I could hardly contain my excitement at seeing the first photos of the rhinos playing in the mud! Then I was astounded by the leopard kill. What a day indeed! Great pics, great story for everyone except the aardvark! Thanks for sharing, Guy!

Guy Brunskill

I was very similar to you Darlene, and that is one of the most exciting things about the bush here at Londolozi, is that you just never know what you might see. Glad you enjoyed the read and hopefully we can take you on your own safari in the near future.

A B

Interesting post..love the Torchwood Male.

Joanne Wadsworth

Torchwood is a unusually beautiful Leopard and those light eyes and a bit lighter fur is a bit different than others in Londolozi. I hope that you see him again soon and that it’s just as exciting!

Guy Brunskill

I certainly agree with you Joanne, his eyes are like non other I have seen. His light colored eyes captures your attention and I too hope to see him a lot more on our property.

Wendy Hawkins

Well done to you Guy & Shadrack for this amazing blog & stunning pictures, I am sure your guests will never forget this drive! Look forward to more exciting moments from you 🙂

Guy Brunskill

Thank you very much Wendy, I don’t think any of us will to be honest. Thank you for your comment and I hope to give you more exciting moments to read about.

Rich Laburn

Incredible sighting guy, both to see the Torchwood male and to witness his hoisted aarvark as prey.

Callum Evans

Now that is what I call luck!! I have heard of a couple of cases of leopards preying on aardvarks, one of which came from Mala Mala in 1992 and another from the Kalahari. So it’s not unheard of but aardvarks are defintely not normal prey for any predator as they are very hard to catch (in addition to their expert burrowing skills, they are pretty fast). The fact that this leopard caught one is very impressive. Still need to see an aardvark myself too.

Guy Brunskill

Hi Callum, it was such lucky day. I had also done some research but you are dead right they are not normal prey and it’s not often these incredibly rare animals are killed and hoisted but yet again there is so much we never see out in the bush. Hopefully you will get the chance see one alive when you do.

Callum Evans

I don’t think aardvarks are normal prey for any predator, dodging a bullet there! I suppose it would be comparible to seeing a leopard with a python or aardwolf kill!! Thanks, I hope so too!!

Henry Kago

….just curious of how an animal like an aardvark would defend itself if attacked by a small predator like a silver-backed jackal or maybe a caracal ?? Could you shed some light on this ??

Ian Thomas

Wow! Rare sighting, but also sad. An interesting view of the powerful tail, claws, and ears. Interesting article.

Amanda Ritchie

Great post Guy. I have not seen the Torchwood Male leopard yet, but look forward to spotting him on our next drive!

Denise Vouri

To answer your question, I’ve not seen rhinos wallowing in the mud, but only afterwards when they are encrusted in the taupe plaster. Next trip perhaps…….

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