A tiny Civet recently outlasted not just one but two leopards, in a serious game of patience.

Stopping to look at some swallows that morning had resulted in us finding a cheetah, which in turn led to us hearing kudu barking, which eventually led to us finding the Ximungwe female leopard up in a tree, with a kudu kill stashed in a nearby marula. As we approached her, a tiny civet broke from the cover of a round leaf teak thicket, which the leopard rushed down her tree to pursue, eventually trapping it in a small mud wallow. This is where our story commences.

Ximungwe Leopard 2 Jt 3

The Ximungwe female watches the civet kitten shivering in the water. Hesitatnt to get her feet wet or her paws dirty, the leopard clearly intended to wait it out and hope the civet emerged by itself.

The leopard circled the wallow a few times while the poor civet shivered in the cold water, but she seemed reluctant to get all muddied up, and simply settled down to wait. What for, exactly, we shall never know, as the civet was very unlikely to come out of its own accord.

We also decided to wait it out to see what happened.

Ximungwe Leopard 2 Jt

Our first view of the Ximungwe female while she looked towards where the young civet had been hiding.

Ximungwe Leopard Jt

The Ximungwe female did a few circuits around the pan. The poor little civet can be seen just above her head.

Doing some birding to pass the time, we were trying to find the Bennet’s woodpecker we could hear calling, when Katie, one of my guests, suddenly exclaimed, “There’s another leopard!”. Approaching down a game trail was a young male unknown to us, who we later identified as the Nweti male, an interloper from the west of the reserve.

He may have just been exploring a new area or he may have spied the remains of the Ximungwe female’s kill, but he wasn’t expecting to suddenly come across her sleeping at the pan, which is what happened when he emerged from the grass. Not knowing her identity, he decided instead to try a different approach and slunk back into the grass, coming towards her from a different angle.

She heard him just before he reached her, and rushed off to take safety in the highest branches of the marula in which she had stashed her kill, with the male racing up behind her. He was more interested in a free meal though, and settled down to feed on the last stringy bits of the kudu, while the female chuffed submissively from higher up.

Ximungwe Leopard 2 Jt 2

The Ximungwe female descends from the marula.

We were silently urging the little civet to take its chance and bolt for freedom, when the male suddenly noticed it and descended to investigate. Luckily for the civet, the Nweti male also seemed reluctant to tread on any mud (or maybe neither just fancied the taste of civet), eventually heading back up the marula tree to feed on the kudu remains.

After what must have been a good 45 minutes, both leopards had come down out of the tree, and the civet finally realised that this would be a good time to run for it. But scampering into a thicket, the noise he made caught the attention of the Ximungwe female, who came rushing back in to investigate.

Ximungwe Leopard 2 Jt 4

A last glimpse of the civet as it rushes for safety.

Fortunately, despite sniffing around intently for a few minutes, she didn’t manage to find where the kitten had hidden itself, and she walked off into the grasslands, leaving the Nweti male still chewing on a kudu leg bone and the luckiest civet on Londolozi hiding somewhere among the grass.

Filed under Leopards Wildlife

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

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on Ximungwe Female Leopard vs Nweti Male vs Civet Kitten (Civet Wins)

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Darlene Knott

Amazing video, James! I think the leopards should be grateful they did not catch the civet. We saw a young leopard in Botswana who ate a civet. He was so sick! Mama had caught a warthog. When he felt better, he went back to her and stole the warthog from her! 😂

James Tyrrell

Hi Darlene, wow that sounds exciting! Civets are known for releasing for a substance they release from specialised glands, which I’ve heard they can do when threatened, so maybe both leopards recognised the possibility of getting tainted with it.

Gillian Evans

Great story and great video work! Very rare to see two leopards and a civet!… Loved seeing the Ximungwe female leaping in and out of the dead tree. Is the Ximungwe female the leopard we previously knew as the Mashaba Young Female?

James Tyrrell

Hi Gillian, yip that’s her. Have a look at this post that explains her name change: http://blog.londolozi.com/2018/03/14/introducing-the-ximungwe-female-leopard/

Carol Sturgeon

So James, can you tell us a close pronunciation of her beautiful name??? She is a very pretty leopard!

Ian Hall

Some sighting, as you say lucky civet (civet was one of my late mother’s favourite words when playing scrabble) . They are the sort of creature I have rarely seen – after all how often do small carnivores such as civets feature on the Londolozi blog?

James Tyrrell

Hi Ian, funny you should ask as recently I’ve been seeing more of them than usual. Three in two night drives, and in the sighting in question there were actually three civet kittens (the other two ran off with their mum, while the one in the story ran the wrong way).
There are lots of them out there as we see their tracks daily, they just happen to be shy so we don’t encounter the actual creatures all that often.

Mary Beth Wheeler

Fun story, James! Lucky civet!

James Tyrrell

VERY lucky civet!

Denise Vouri

Now that’s a sighting! How fascinating that neither leopard wanted to get muddy or wet in pursuit of the kitten. Didn’t realize they were that “prissy “.

James Tyrrell

Hi Denise.
Haha that’s certainly what it looked like to us, but it might have also been partly that the civet didn’t look like a good meal. Who knows?

Chelsea Allard

Such a cool sighting!

Wendy Hawkins

Oh that was just wonderful to hear & see that the muddy civet managed a quick escape & capture – a very happy ending 🙂 Thank you James your pictures are stunning 🙂


Another of those amazing sitings! All I could think was ‘poor civet’. I guess we’ll never know why it didn’t make a break for it while the two leopards were running toward and up the marula.


Never knew about Civet cats before today. Looks cute for a pet. It reminded me abit of a badger until I saw it scampering out of the water!

Callum Evans

What a unique sighting, combining a leopard kill, a leopard interaction and one of the most rarely seen nocturnal carnivores. Don’t think I’ve seen any civet photos on the Blog!

Marinda Drake

Amazing sighting. The Ximungwe female is as beautiful as I remember. Lucky escape for the civet.

Joanne Wadsworth

How could I have missed this interesting story about my most favorite leopard of all….Ximungwe….with a big nod to Tony Goldman who introduced me when she was much younger and called the Mashaba Young Female. She certainly got her good looks from her mum. Consequently it is extra special (and with a bit of selfish pride to boot), for me to watch this excellent video of the civet stand off/lounge-around and the other male leopard encounter. The Ximunge fan in me grinned when you mentioned he only got scraps. After all, we girls must stick together! Lol…

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