In an area so densely populated with large predators such as Lions, Leopards and Hyena, there is much competition. It is a way of life and there are certain strategies that are involved in ensuring ones safety. There are also certain measures taken to remain undetected and ensure the safety of a kill. A Leopard is an animal that unfortunately tends to be out competed physically by Lions and Hyena, and will often lose a well earned meal to the powerful jaws of the unmistakable scavenger.
In a recent sighting, my first ever of the Nyeleti 4:3 male, some strategies were discussed on my vehicle. How does a Leopard avoid these threats and keep themselves and their meal safe.
1. Remain undetected. Live within a realm of disguise, be silent, like a ghost, and have the ability to disappear. For most these are well known attributes a Leopard possesses. Scent, bone crunching, vultures and alarm calls are all signals for a Hyena to investigate.
2. Keep your kill well hidden. For us as humans, to flaunt our success is somewhat a natural human trait. We thrive on recognition. It tends to drive us to achieve further. For a Leopard it is the opposite, a successful hunt must be enjoyed alone. In the shadows and not the spotlight. Too much attention may attract a threat.
3. Use your strengths to your advantage. Leopards are well known for their stealth and their ability to be extremely elusive. However, when this fails, they have other ways in which to succeed. They are extremely powerful creatures that are well renowned for climbing. If a leopard is detected, they tend to climb the closest tree. We all know that Hyenas can’t climb, so in the fork of a Marula, a Leopard can rest safely.
4. Use your senses. With incredible eyesight, smell and hearing, a Leopard can, most of the time, become aware that there is a threat close by. The faintest whiff of a Hyena in the area and a Leopard’s head is raised, they are poised, ready for action. The sight of the sloping back of a Hyena, moving through the grassland or an uncanny clumsiness associated with these scavengers will all help in avoidance of this bully.
5. Don’t be lazy. It happens time and time again, where a Leopard will lose its kill to a Hyena, simply because they have not placed their kill in a tree before the threat is on their doorstep. So, using their time wisely they feed on the ground if need be, remove unwanted internal organs, or ingest them quickly, and once the weight of the kill is lowered, takes it up the tree.
The Nyeleti 4:3 male graced us briefly with his presence a few days ago in the open savannah lands in the south western regions of Londolozi, and he demonstrated such techniques mentioned above that allowed him to successfully avoid losing a kill to a lurking Hyena in the area. It turned out to be one of the greatest Leopard sightings I have had this year. All the pieces of the puzzle were on the table, and as if on request, they fell into place. A kill had occurred, Impala alarms had enabled us to find this amazing animal. Feeding on an Impala lamb which he had just killed moments before, he was alert and ready for any threat approaching. He had surveyed his surroundings and pin pointed the nearest Marula tree for safety in case of emergency. Then, like a ship sailing through the fine mist, a Hyena arrived unannounced. Without hesitation, the Leopard was up, in full flight, and ascended the tree leaving a hungry Hyena below.
Photographically this was amazing, and with a new addition to my camera kit, a Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens, I was able to play with various framing techniques. I hope you enjoy.
Have you witnessed a leopard incorporating any other strategies in which to avoid hyenas and other competing predators? Let us know in the comments section below…
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland