After an incredible start to the morning, tracking and finding two of the Majingilane males, we thought we had, had our dose of action for the morning. We were about to find out that we were very wrong. All of the time I have spent both visiting the bush growing up and now working here full time have taught me to expect the unexpected but I never could have prepared for what we were about to witness.
The keen eyes of my tracker, Foster, had singled out the outline of a leopard lying on a distant termite mound. Motionless, his eyes were fixed on a large hole in the side of the mound. We approached, trying to get a closer look. We could now see that it was the Tu Tones male leopard and he was completely focused on the hole. We sat in silence to allow him the best chance of securing a meal, he was in poor condition and with healing wounds all over his body. We suspect it was lions by the severity of the wounds but they could also have been inflicted by a leopard. This previous encounter had left him worse for ware and in desperate need of a meal, this opportunity was crucial. Not even five minutes passed by when the head of a large female warthog cautiously peered from underground. He tensed, she made her break, he leaped and they rolled down the side of the mound in a small cloud of dust. The squealing distress call of the sow was ear-splitting.
The Tu Tones male had now locked on and improved his hold, lying on his back he had the poor warthog in a position where he could put her out of her misery with a strangulation bite. A strong position for him but at the same time slightly compromising, he couldn’t see what was coming. All the squealing had attracted the attention of the Marthly male who, unbeknownst to us, was within ear shot of the unfolding scene.
The Marthly male, ever the opportunist, came slinking in, pausing along the way to make sure he wasn’t running into a pride of lions. He slowed a final time before weighing up his chances and throwing himself at one of his most powerful rivals and his newly claimed prize. The tussle was brief – any longer and the warthog may have escaped. A tug of war ensued, both males in desperate need of a meal, neither leopard willing to give in. The Marthly male had somehow managed to get a better hold and based on his grip had the slight upper hand.
The warthog eventually succumbed and the Marthly male took full advantage of his strong position on the carcass. He spun around and threw his weight behind the limp sow. Twisting and pushing the Tu Tones male off of what was originally his hard earned catch. Left with very few words to describe an incredible scene we all tried to catch our breaths and try to slow the shakes from the adrenaline pumping through our systems. Bearing witness to such raw nature and being a part of a scene with no filters or set script leaves one shaken and in awe of the difficulties faced by both predators and prey.
We left the scene once the dejected Tu Tones male made his way to the top of the mound to watch his hard work being dragged off by the Marthly male into some long grass. When we stopped for a short coffee break we played the scene over and discussed parts of interaction that stood out for each individual. The magnitude and rarity of the sighting took a while to sink in and we all had to allow time to process it properly.
Back at camp the excitement was still booming, pictures and videos were being shared with guests and staff alike. Spending a little time with Londolozi Tracker Elmon Mlhongo and explaining the sighting to him, he replied saying that in his 40-odd years of experience he had never been witness to such a scene. A truly once in a lifetime sighting and something I will remember forever.
What do you feel when seeing the raw power and struggle of life and death in the bush?
Written and photographed by Simon Smit
Filmed by Foster Masiye