A tiny Civet recently outlasted not just one but two leopards, in a serious game of patience.
Stopping to look at some swallows that morning had resulted in us finding a cheetah, which in turn led to us hearing kudu barking, which eventually led to us finding the Ximungwe female leopard up in a tree, with a kudu kill stashed in a nearby marula. As we approached her, a tiny civet broke from the cover of a round leaf teak thicket, which the leopard rushed down her tree to pursue, eventually trapping it in a small mud wallow. This is where our story commences.
The leopard circled the wallow a few times while the poor civet shivered in the cold water, but she seemed reluctant to get all muddied up, and simply settled down to wait. What for, exactly, we shall never know, as the civet was very unlikely to come out of its own accord.
We also decided to wait it out to see what happened.
Doing some birding to pass the time, we were trying to find the Bennet’s woodpecker we could hear calling, when Katie, one of my guests, suddenly exclaimed, “There’s another leopard!”. Approaching down a game trail was a young male unknown to us, who we later identified as the Nweti male, an interloper from the west of the reserve.
He may have just been exploring a new area or he may have spied the remains of the Ximungwe female’s kill, but he wasn’t expecting to suddenly come across her sleeping at the pan, which is what happened when he emerged from the grass. Not knowing her identity, he decided instead to try a different approach and slunk back into the grass, coming towards her from a different angle.
She heard him just before he reached her, and rushed off to take safety in the highest branches of the marula in which she had stashed her kill, with the male racing up behind her. He was more interested in a free meal though, and settled down to feed on the last stringy bits of the kudu, while the female chuffed submissively from higher up.
We were silently urging the little civet to take its chance and bolt for freedom, when the male suddenly noticed it and descended to investigate. Luckily for the civet, the Nweti male also seemed reluctant to tread on any mud (or maybe neither just fancied the taste of civet), eventually heading back up the marula tree to feed on the kudu remains.
After what must have been a good 45 minutes, both leopards had come down out of the tree, and the civet finally realised that this would be a good time to run for it. But scampering into a thicket, the noise he made caught the attention of the Ximungwe female, who came rushing back in to investigate.
Fortunately, despite sniffing around intently for a few minutes, she didn’t manage to find where the kitten had hidden itself, and she walked off into the grasslands, leaving the Nweti male still chewing on a kudu leg bone and the luckiest civet on Londolozi hiding somewhere among the grass.