It was a cool morning. The temperature was perfect and as the sun rose we stayed protected with a bit of cloud cover. A pack of two wild dogs had been seen early in the morning by another ranger but only very briefly so our plan was to try and find them again. We approached a waterhole just outside of Pioneer Camp and were met by a symphony of hippo calls. The waterhole was buzzing with action. A crocodile was snatching at small fish in the shallows and storks and hamerkops snapped at the ones scrambling to escape the large reptile. An African fish eagle was perched on one of the lower branches of a fallen over tree. Moments later it launched from the branches and took a very low flight route with its legs extended. Snatch! It dug its talons into the water, drawing out a fish and flew to the edge of the waterhole to feed. The vehicle erupted with exclamations. It had already been an incredible morning and we’d only just begun.

The African fish eagle perched on one of the fallen trees around the edge of the waterhole. These large birds sit and scan the water surface, waiting for an opportunity to arise to catch their next meal.

Only 100 metres later, two beautiful saddle-billed storks caught our eye but something else had caught the eye of Shadrack, our tracker. “Leopard! Leopard! Leopard!” he shouted. We all swivelled around and to our amazement, there was a female leopard right there, walking behind the vehicles and approaching a thicket. Sean Zeederberg, another ranger, and I looped around the thicket and waited for her to emerge. Moments later she popped out and walked right past our vehicles. It was the Mashaba female and she looked like she was very actively patrolling her territory. She would scent mark every 50 metres or so and then stop and scan the surrounding area.  We weren’t sure if this was because of the rain we had had two nights before and she was re-scent marking her territory or if there was something else bothering her. The reason was to become clear soon enough.

10
Mashaba 3:3 Female
2008 - present

The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.

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Mashaba 3:3 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
49 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
5 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

She started moving into a very thick area where it was difficult for the vehicles to follow and so we decided to leave her – not knowing this wouldn’t be the last time our paths would cross that morning. Just as we got to the road a herd of about 70 impalas with calves came hurtling towards us, bomb-shelling in every direction and clearly fleeing from something.
Sean immediately took off to see what they were running from and as he did, two wild dogs appeared in the midst of the panicked herd. The wild dogs had managed to separate one of the impala lambs from the rest and chased it down a road and into a thicket where it fell victim to the pair. We could not believe this was all happening in such close proximity to the leopard! Some guests wore startled expressions, whilst the others were quiet with disbelief as the sharp calls of the dogs pierced the air.

The impala sprint across the road at full speed. Typically prey species alarm call when they spot predators but when it comes to wild dogs, prey just tend to run. Wild dogs hunt using stamina to tire their prey out, not a stalk and pounce method, so alarm calling doesn’t actually deter the dogs from continuing their hunt once they’ve been spotted.

The dogs ate the impala in no time at all.  They are extremely fast feeders, an adaption that ensures the dogs get as much food as possible before other larger predators such as lions or hyenas have the chance to steal it. And because there were only two dogs, their chances of defending their kill was even slimmer than if they were with a larger pack. Whilst the chaos ensued around us, I got an update from another ranger that two leopards – the Flat Rock male and the Nkoveni female – were also in the area and that three hyenas were running in our direction, in all likelihood being drawn in by the yelping of the dogs.

6
Nkoveni 2:2 Female
2012 - present

A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.

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Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
55 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist
 
5
Flat Rock 3:2 Male
2013 - present

A leopard who took advantage of the death of the 4:4 male in 2016 to grab territory to the west of the Londolozi camps.

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19 sightings by Members
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Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Lineage
Unknown
Identification
markings
Timeline
23 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
0 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

One of the wild dogs pauses its feeding. Wild dogs are mistaken for being brutal hunters, when in fact their tactic of tearing at the stomach of their results in a very swift death from shock and blood loss. It is far quicker than the suffocation technique used by the cats.

The dogs take a brief moment of rest on the edge of a termite mound. With ears perked up, they could probably hear the hyenas heading in their direction before they saw them.

As we heard the hyenas approaching from behind the vehicle, we turned to see three of them sprinting in. In the chaos, they had flushed the Mashaba female up a Marula tree 50 metres behind us. This was the same leopard we had left before seeing the wild dogs. The hyenas came racing in and the thicket behind us erupted with the shrieks and yelps so indicative of a hyena-wild dog interaction.

The look of a very determined hyena as it approaches the wild dogs with the impala lamb. Wild dogs do not have jaws strong enough to break through the larger bones of their kills but these scraps are ideal for the powerful jaws of the spotted hyena.

We really thought this was all the excitement we could possibly see in one morning but we were about to be proven wrong.

Read tomorrow’s blog to hear Sean Zeederberg’s account of what happened next.

Involved Leopards

Mashaba 3:3 Female

Mashaba 3:3 Female

Spotted this leopard?
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Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard

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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12 Comments

on What Happens When 3 Leopards, 3 Hyenas and a Pack of Wild Dogs Converge?

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

Wow! Incredible sighting. All the interaction between the predators. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s blog.

Christa Blessing

Wow, what incredible sightings you had! I have wanted to return to Londolozi for some years now and I am sure that I will one day. However, having read about all those adventures you guys have had and are writing about, your guests’ expectations will be sky-high. At least mine will be when I return.

Joanne Wadsworth

What a monumental morning for you and the guests! Seeing so many various animals converge in such a short time created a permanent memory for everyone present. Your story was so well written, Guy, that I felt the excitement of the day….especially when my very favorite Leopard appeared! To have the Mashaba 3:3 appear SO close to the Land Rover and actually STOP to assess the environment gave all a wonderful opportunity to stare at true beauty. I’ve watched her grow up through the camera eyes of a frequent guest at Londolozi. One day it will be my turn!

Jennifer Ridgewell

How very exciting! Can’t wait to see what happened next…..lucky, lucky guests to experience this interaction so early in their drive…. and The Fish Eagle too, just fabulous.

Callum Evans

I am praying for a sighting like that in Botswana!!!!

Callum Evans

Is it just me or is there a scar above the Mashaba Female’s right eye?

Denise Vouri

Wow, that was a great morning game drive! I am thrilled to know that wild dogs have re-populated to the extent one can spot them throughout Southern Africa on a more regular basis. 17 years ago I recall a disease had claimed the lives of many dogs in northern Botswana and it took several years to bring the packs back to life. Within Chobe Game Reserve only a couple were sighted and it was at a great distance. Looking forward to part two of your adventure.

Kimberly Salzer

Oh, the wild dogs I didn’t see, Guy! 🙂

Jill Larone

Wow, what an exciting morning that was! I can’t wait to hear what happened next! Great pictures and video, Guy!

Kerryn Du

What a sighting G! Totally jealous….. Now you owe me dogs on our next visit!

Sylvia Landl

Just wondering if anyone has seen Xongile (female cub of Karula) in your neck of the woods?

James Tyrrell

Unfortunately not, Sylvia.

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