It is that time of year again when the bush is teeming with new life. Baby impalas, wildebeest and warthogs are just about everywhere you look. A warthog sow will give birth in a burrow where the piglets are safely out of sight and protected from the unstable weather conditions. The sow will use her snout to create a shelf in the burrow where the piglets rest. This is crucial because thunderstorms are a common occurrence during summer and the heavy rainfall could either drown the piglets in the burrow or leave them susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia.

Just over a week ago, myself and my guests decided to spend our drive in search of the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male who had been seen that morning. Surprisingly he was spotted in the middle of the Piva male and Inyathini males’ territories (in recent times due to the disappearance of the Gowrie male, we have been seeing him in the eastern sections of Marthly, north of the Sand River and the core of his territory extends further east of that).

TerritoryMapBlank

The usual territory of the 5: male is shown in red. The red spot is where this sighting took place. He is possibly being ousted by younger, stronger males as he did not look in particularly good condition when this sighting took place.

I have only seen Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male once and have always thought of him as quite a unique leopard because he is blind in one eye. A leopard, being solitary, only has itself to rely on so being partially blind and having to successfully set up territory, defend territory, stay out of harm’s way and hunt can be an extremely difficult task. Just think of how this male has had to adjust to life with one eye.

Being a cloudy and cool day, my thoughts were that he might have moved around and could be long gone; true to form he had indeed left the area, and the hard ground meant few tracks or signs to follow.
After working the area for some time, tracker Richard Mthabeni who I work with suddenly shouted, “Leopard, leopard!” The male was lying on a distant termite mound, staring fixedly at the entrance to a burrow on the one side.

Male leopards are well know for hunting warthogs. Once they know there is a warthog inside a burrow they can spend hours sitting patiently and waiting. From past experiences I knew that it could be hours until something happened, if anything happened at all, but this time luck was on our side. Within minutes of us arriving we saw the warthog sow stick her nose out of the burrow. Warthogs have an incredible sense of smell and she must have been aware of the leopard’s presence. As the sow made her dash from the burrow there was a mad blur of dust, rosettes and warthog fur, but before we or the leopard knew it, the sow was gone.

Once the dust had settled the leopard returned to the mound for a closer look. He walked towards the entrance of the burrow, whilst sniffing the air and probably keeping an eye out for the sow. He wanted to see whether there were any other warthogs still inside.

He slowly approached the entrance and then slipped completely out of sight, disappearing into the mound. We all sat in silence, the anticipation of what may happen growing amongst us.

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The leopard completely disappeared into the hole. Photograph by James Tyrrell

To our surprise he emerged out of the hole with a tiny piglet clamped in his mouth. Still very small, the piglet made no sound at all and made no attempt to get away.
The sow had left the mound, in all likelihood to feed so that she could keep her strength to raise her piglets but in doing so had left them defenceless, at the mercy of the leopard.
As we watched him with the first piglet, a second piglet ran out from between his legs. Within seconds he had dropped the first piglet and was in hot pursuit of the second one, who although still very small, was extremely quick. As the leopard grabbed the second piglet it started squealing, alerting a third piglet to the danger. This last one leapt from the burrow and ran in the opposite direction to its litter mates. Incredibly, the leopard spotted it, dropped his grip on the second piglet and bounded after the final one. Sadly, this piglet met the same fate as its siblings.

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This is an image from the first time I saw the Dudley riverbank 5:5 male. You can see the discoloured eye on the right hand side. Being a solitary cat and having to hunt, set up territory and in general look after himself with only one eye is no easy task. Photograph by Trevor McCall-Peat

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The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male with his second piglet kill. Photograph by Trevor McCall-Peat

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Retrieving the third piglet, which he had stashed in the burrow while he devoured the first two… Photograph by James Tyrrell

It was a very sad day for the warthog sow but an absolutely incredible sight to witness. What amazed us was not only the speed of the piglets, but the speed and agility of this male leopard as well. It was astounding to see the way in which he moved and hunted regardless of his disability, judging distances to perfection. And so despite the severity of the scene, the greatest reminder for me was just how resilient leopards really are.

Written by Trevor McCall-Peat

Photographed by Trevor McCall-Peat and James Tyrrell, Londolozi Rangers

 

About the Author

Trevor McCall-Peat

Photographic Guide

Trevor joined Londolozi from Balule Game Reserve, and with this head start in guiding, he was up and running in no time as a Londolozi Ranger. Trevor has a unique style in photography, capturing images from fresh angles that most wouldn’t see. This ...

More stories by Trevor

12 Comments

on 5:5 And The Three Little Pigs
    Ezequiel Almada says:

    He’s the man!!!
    With Camp Pan gone, he’s one of my favourites now, amazing cat. I read that, after the fight against the Marthly male which left him blind, it took some time for him to adjust, but soon he was again patrolling confidently without fear, just like he always does.
    From the reports of Mala mala, the only real feud he has is against the Piva male, but I’m not sure if they have come to blows yet. I’m not aware of any other young male he has battled against.
    Thank you Trevor for this piece on Airstrip/ 5:5, this leopard is a real character.

    Alex says:

    Great sighting Trevor,the Dudley 5:5 male has been sighted several times by your neighbours in Piva’s territory and they had several standoffs.From what I know he doesn’t have any rivals that might pressure him into searching for a new territory.

    Wendy Hawkins says:

    Thanks Trevor, shame she had a sad homecoming 🙁

    She will have more. Have a lovely Tuesday & hope you have some rain

    John says:

    Very interesting. Two years ago at Londolozi we saw an older male leopard that was blind in the other eye. This was very close to the Singita border I believe. Any idea which leopard that was?

    Blair S says:

    Sandriver/Mangheni Male

    Richard Frankle says:

    The Big Bad Wolf had nothing on this Guy!

    I pity those piglets, all three at once.

    Brian C says:

    Wow! This guy has been a scrappy fighter and survivor. For a male leopard he showed a lot of interest in the raising of the 2 sub-adult daughters of Xidulu (who may or may not be his offspring). This was a really awesome sighting! I wonder if 5:5 will encounter Anderson male on Londolozi… Then again, I don’t wish that on him, he has enough conflict going on with Piva.

    Stephen Frankle says:

    Hectic stuff!!! This guy certainly took no prisoners!! Richard, this guy makes the Big Bad Wolf look like a real Softy.

    Janet Finan says:

    I am so naive. I wanted you to tell me he put the piglets back in the nest. Not to worry, I will adjust.

    Nicolas Gautier says:

    Hi Brian,
    Do you think that this behaviour could come from his upbringing ( raised by his grandma and staying longer to help her) or True opportunism (having a Female to Hunt with/for him as long as he protects the cubs) ?
    Thank you Trevor for the beautiful pictures and article.

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