We were almost back at camp when we received the radio call from ranger Helen Young. Enoch Mkanzi, who tracks with Helen, had used his almost supernatural powers of sight to spot a leopard in the distance, lying up on a termite mound. As they approached the mound to ascertain exactly which leopard it was, a warthog burst from its burrow, right under the nose of the leopard, which turned out to be the Maxabene 3:2 young male.
Letting the first warthog go, he obviously knew something that Helen and Enoch did not; that there was a second warthog still underground. A few moments later, this second animal broke cover, and the leopard was on top of her instantly. Lunging forward as the warthog tried desperately to reverse at high speed, he managed to grab her just behind the ear, sinking his teeth in and locking his jaws as she struggled frantically to pull free.
So began an almost 15 minute stalemate between the warthog and the leopard. It was at this time that Helen radioed us, and as we were scarcely 2 minutes drive away, we rushed to the scene, to be greeted by the sight of a leopard with the upper half of his body halfway down a warthog burrow! He had a strong enough grip on the warthog that she couldn’t break free from, but it was not an instantly fatal bite. He knew that to try and shift his grip to grab her throat in the classic leopard strangle-hold would be to risk letting her break loose and retreat down the burrow. He also knew that if he could hold on for long enough she must eventually tire, at which time he could extricate her from the burrow and enjoy a well earned meal.
Things transpired exactly in this way, as after 15 minutes the warthog’s hold on life eventually gave out, and the Maxabene young male was able to pull her out of the burrow and drag her to a nearby bushwillow thicket, where he was able to get his breath back and begin feeding in the shade, hidden from the prying eyes of vultures.
Written and Photographed by: James Tyrrell