The Tamboti female leopard had had a successful day, killing a vervet monkey in the morning, which she dragged to her 10-month old cub for it to feed on, and then a common duiker in the afternoon.
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
24 hours after hoisting her duiker kill, there was only a little bit remaining, but trouble was lying barely 150 metres away in the form of four Ntsevu lionesses and two of the Birmingham males.
They were sleeping the day away on a nearby clearing, but as evening fell one of the lionesses would systematically raise her head to sniff the wind. As there was a slight breeze blowing from the general direction of where the leopards’ kill was hoisted, we were pretty sure that that was what she was smelling, but for the time being she was happy to continue dozing.
Back at the kill, the Tamboti female’s cub was feeding up in the Jackalberry tree, practicing moving the duiker carcass around, as she will need to do when fully grown and hoisting her own, much larger kills. The carcass, most of which had been consumed, was being held together by only a thin bit of skin, and as the cub’s movements became more and more extravagant, we were sure that she was about to drop the kill.
Sure enough, after a particularly bold repositioning attempt, the inevitable happened, and down came the duiker. The Tamboti female immediately came racing in, attempting to salvage what she could of the carcass. We were convinced that she was aware of the lions’ presence all along, as instead of lying sleeping with a full belly, which she would normally do, she spent the whole time we were watching the cub with her head up, looking continuously in the direction of where the lions were.
She managed to break off a small piece of the carcass from where it had fallen, and moved into the long grass to feed. With the kill on the ground and not wanting to bring attention on the leopards, we duly moved off towards the lions.
It was a hot evening and they were fast asleep, but without warning, the lioness who had been sniffing all afternoon suddenly leaped up and began trotting determinedly in the direction of the leopards were, immediately followed by the rest of the pride and the males.
We followed at a distance, and heard a tremendous growl as the Tamboti female must have spotted the pride coming out of the thicket and run for safety. We could hear the noise of her dashing away along the riverbed.
Meanwhile, as darkness began to fall, the lions had slowed down, knowing there was most likely food to be had. We moved ahead to where the leopards had been, and waited for the pride to emerge from the gloom, heading straight for the tree in which the kill had originally been hoisted. After one lioness had climbed up the wrong tree and one of the Birmingham males had eventually found the remains of the duiker in the Jackalberry’s root system, the females realised they weren’t going to get any of the spoils and melted away into the night.
We left the male to finish his meal, thankful that both the Tamboti female and her cub had escaped safely, and full-bellied.