James Siwela and I came across fresh male leopard pug marks in the soft dust alongside a dry river bed. We slowly followed the tracks down the road and soon heard the rasping call of a leopard a short distance from us. We rushed back to the vehicle and excitedly explained to the guests that the leopard that we were following was only a short distance from us and that we should find it shortly. Back in the vehicle we carried on down the road and found what we had been looking for. Casually walking down the road was the Tugwaan male calling and scent marking on his northern territorial boundary.
A beautiful male with a distinctive “V” shape on his forehead, the Tugwaan male was dominant for many years over a huge territory.
Five minutes after finding the leopard we heard a warthog distress call in the distance. The leopard pricked his ears forward in interest and suddenly darted down the road towards the noise. In a flash of rosettes he sprinted towards the thicket line with us on his tail trying to see what he was charging towards. To our amazement we saw a hyena beginning to feed on a large warthog sow. The leopard rushed in without a thought, chased off the hyena and grabbed hold of the warthogs throat to begin dragging it down towards a large ravine about 100 metres away.
As the Tugwaan male had the carcass in his jaws the hyena made several attempts to steal back his meal. I have never seen such bravado from a leopard as every time the hyena made a lunge for the kill, the leopard would charge towards the hyena fangs flashing and the most guttural growl, and then sprint back to his kill, standing over in snarling with pure aggression and strength. While all of this was happening, the Maxabeni female appeared and began to follow the procession. We worked out that she must have made the kill and the hyena robbed her only to lose it to the tugwaan male!
The Tugwaan male picked up his won quarry and made for the thicket line passing through a small ravine. As he passed through the ravine he scared a bushbuck ewe out of a thicket. Little did we know what was about to happen next! The hyena followed through the ravine and came across the bushbucks tiny lamb hiding in a thicket. The hyena snatched it up in its jaws and tore off through the bush with the tiny animal.
The Tugwaan male eventually made it to the base of a large weeping boer bean tree and pulled the carcass of the warthog in to the shade of the large tree. He was absolutely exhausted from the whole event to he lay up in the shade straddling the carcass and attempting to catch his breath. No more the five minutes later we saw in the distance the familiar lope of the spotted hyena with a slightly larger belly. The hyena sniffed the air and yet again picked up the scent of the leopard and the carcass and rushed in trying to steal back the meat.
The Tugwaan male was having none of it and grabbed the carcass once more and dashed up the tree only to fall out. Again the hyena rushed in and again the leopard attemped to hoist the kill, only to fall out of the tree. The third attempt from the hyena saw the Tugwaan male give up on hoisting and decided to charge after the hyena, sending him scuttling off into the bush. The leoard had finally got his message across and lay up in the shade resting and feeding for the better part of the day.
Filmed and Photographed by: Ann Perry and Mary Strabel (Londolozi Guests)