I love following wild dogs. Although a drive with them can be a gamble, trying to stick with the pack as they move at speed through extensive bushwillow thickets, the experience often turns up more than you bargained for, as in a predator-rich environment like Londolozi, the chances are fairly good that on a long distance chase they will bump into another carnivore. I have seen leopards treed innumerable times by wild dogs, I have seen hyenas rush in to try and claim the remains of a wild dog kill, and the young Tsalala lioness takes it upon herself to give chase any time the pack heaves into view. Only a few months ago she was successful in her pursuit, as described brilliantly by ranger Sean Cresswell.
It is by no means only the dogs that run into other predators, however. Lions chase leopards, hyenas face off against lions, leopards try and hoist their kills amidst the turmoil, and all of them are involved in a daily fight for survival.
The inter-predator conflict in the African bush can create the sighting of a lifetime.
The official predator hierarchy, as seen in most of the literature, has lions as the undisputed top of the pile. Spotted hyenas come next, followed closely by wild dogs, who are relatively small carnivores, but owing to their pack hunting strategy and extremely powerful bite-to-size ratio, they rank higher than leopards. An adult male leopard is significantly larger than a wild dog, double the size in some cases, yet time and time again I have seen even the largest male leopards chased ignominiously into the treetops by an advancing pack of African wild dogs. The Marthly, Tu-Tones and Camp Pan males, all big and fearsome leopards, are three individuals who I have witnessed being forced high into the branches.
Right at the bottom of the pile we find the cheetah. Although the fastest land mammal in the world, the cheetah’s lack of bulk renders it relatively helpless when a larger predator arrives to try and claim its kill. Although a cheetah can outrun pretty much everything that threatens it (provided it sees it in time), their inadequate physical strength precludes them dragging a kill up a tree or to safety. Many times I have seen the hard work of a cheetah undone by the inopportune arrival of another larger predator.
Intraspecies competition is also rife in the reserve. This is when one animal competes against another from the same species. Male lions will try and kill any intruder in their territories, and both the Piva and Inyathini male leopards are currently carrying wounds from a recent fight.
The following videos give just a taste of some of the rivalries at Londolozi.
The first video was one of the most incredible sightings I have ever been privileged enough to witness, involving one of the most iconic rivalries of the African bush, lions and hyenas. For the full story, click here. Although no photos or video could ever do it justice, one can at least get a sense of the drama and chaos from the clip.
When a hyena moves in to steal a kill from a leopard, the hyena invariably goes straight for the meat, and the leopard simply has to move off a few metres, hoping for a chance to steal a portion of the kill back. The hyenas are not too interested in fighting, just in stealing food. In the interests of self-preservation one will sometimes see leopards retreating to the trees when pressured by hyenas, but once the hyena(s) have commandeered the kill, their interest in the leopard generally fades.
When it is a lion moving in to steal the kill, the lion’s first priority is usually to attempt to catch and kill the leopard, and the leopard has to make itself scarce, either running for its life or climbing into the branches of the nearest tree.
In some instances, simply climbing a tree is not enough, and the lion will actually attempt to pursue the leopard into the boughs. Have a look at the following two videos: The first one shows one of the Majingilane attempting to steal a kill from the Mashaba female. Fortunately for her she managed to drag it high enough into the tree to keep it – and herself – out of reach of the lion.
The second video shows the young Tsalala lioness attempting to get at the Tutlwa young male leopard in a marula tree. In this instance the Tsalala pride had already robbed his impala kill, and it was sheer naked aggression and interspecies animosity that occurs between some predators that sent the lioness up after the leopard.
The final video shows two female leopards in a territorial dispute. The leopards are the Mashaba and Tutlwa females, both daughters of the Vomba female and both fathered by the Camp Pan male, but born in different litters a few years apart. The Mashaba female had a young cub at the time and was determined to keep her territory free of intruders, and the older Tutlwa female was mating with the Marthly male when the incident took place making her more aggressive.
A sighting like this is incredibly rare to witness as leopards will actively avoid physical conflict. Being solitary animals, they are loth to sustain an injury that may render them unable to hunt.
Much of the inter-predator conflict that takes place happens during the dark hours of the night and is not witnessed by any human eye. The opportunities we have to view the high drama in the predator dynamics in such a remarkable place as this should be grabbed with open arms and savoured.
Written by James Tyrrell, Londolozi Photographer.
Photographed by James Tyrrell unless otherwise stated
Filed under Wildlife
Great blog James,who won the fight between Piva and Inyathini male?
Maegaret and I are booked with Abercrombie and Kent to visit Londolozi at the end of October bringing with us one side of our family including our grandchildren Poppy and Oscar. I have sent them all of the films and articles you have displayed recently and they are wild with excitemen. We r staing in Founders Camp, we stayed 10 years ago in Tree Camp so looking forwards to see the changes. Is Sean still there as it would be great to have him drive us once more. Cant wait
Awesome blog James really cool footage and pics aswell. Who won the fight between Inyathini and Piva?
Incredible sightings. Stunning videos.
Great blog James and the videos and images are incredible! I always feel sorry for the beautiful Cheetah, who works so hard to get a meal and then so often has it taken away.
Epic videos and compilation of sightings, thanks for sharing JT
Overall one of the best blogs of the year! Especially liked the still shots at the beginning. Absolutely fascinating. “kudos” to you James!!
Conflict between the different predators is bound to happen in a game rich wildlife reserve like Londolozi. It must be fascinating to witness these interactions and their resolution. I remember the thrilling Tamboti Young female/wild dog dispute. Don’t like seeing the animals get injured, but it is all part of the bigger scheme of things.
With all due respect to all of the other fantastic blogs that are posted and the people who post them, this has to be one of the best I have read with some of the best pictures and videos that I have ever seen. Amazing!