The winter action just gets better and better…
Recently the Maxabeni Female has been lured out of her territory, following the Marthly Male in a mating frenzy. This much loved leopard, aged about 14 years old is yet again attempting to fall pregnant. Her two sons, from late 2008, are fully independent and the clock is ticking for this aging individual. The two males that currently spend a lot of time in her territory are the Camp Pan Male and the Marthly Male. She needs to cleverly mate with both these males so as to minimize the chances of her litter being killed. The problem is that the Marthly Male’s territory extends far north and way beyond the realms of the Maxabeni. It is for this reason that she has spent the last few days north of the Sand River (right in the middle of the Tutlwa Females territory).
We managed to find the Marthly Male and Maxabeni Female in the morning and watched them aggressively mate a number of times. Suddenly the situation took a turn as we noticed that they were mating a mere ten yards from the entrance to a warthog burrow. The facial expressions of the Marthly Male suggested that there were still warthogs inside. Mating took a back seat as the scene escalated.
A very courageous male warthog returned to the burrow and was evidently very upset with the leopards lying around on his doorstep. He was extremely aggressive and managed to keep back the leopards; intimidating them enough to get him self back into his burrow. He was so incredibly brave to fend off two leopards, preventing them accessing his families’ hole. Then, for some inexplicable reason, he bolted out swiftly bypassing the amazed leopards. His exit prompted the remainder of the family to follow…in a cloud of dust they shot out at an unbelievable speed.
The leopards flew in all directions, pigs snorted and little legs danced across the grassy plain. But the male leopard was simply too quick! In peak physical condition, this gorgeous male picked an individual warthog and leapt onto its back. The sound was incredible…the squeals and the growls. The warthog he had jumped on was a large female and was nearly the same size as him.
Both animals fought bravely. The leopard fighting for a meal and the warthog fighting for it’s life. The Maxabeni Female kept her distance, initially, as the warthog kicked and bit. It was clear that a warthog of this caliber was out of her range, but not for the Marthly Male. He expertly changed his grip and got a hold on her throat, throttling her in the process. The Maxabeni Female seized her moment and joined in the battle. She took the rear end whilst the male went for the jugular. To see two leopards killing an animal is spectacular.
Once the kill was made, he dragged it into the dense bush where he allowed her to feed. Once she was done he took over, ignoring her attempts to get him to mount. Later that evening he would hoist the remainder of the warthog. In a cruel turn of fate he hoisted it on the branch a tree that was directly above the entrance to her burrow.
We went back the next morning; a hyena had joined the two leopards and their hoisted prize. She sat patiently waiting for the lob-sided remains to fall to earth.
It had been incredible to witness this most unusual scene and to capture a lot of the spectacle on film. Enjoy although I must warn that this is not for the faint hearted.
Written, filmed and photographed by Adam Bannister