Although the larger predators of Londolozi can and do fight and even kill each other on occasion, more often than not when it’s hyenas and leopards interacting, food is what they’re worried about, and once the question of who gets what has been settled, the animosity often simmers down.
Ranger Sean Zeederberg recently filmed a sighting in which the Nhlanguleni female, her cubs, and a pair of hyenas were all interacting over an impala kill.
Sean takes us through what happened:
“We were out looking for the Nhlanguleni female near where she had last been seen with her cubs. We stopped for a few minutes to watch an impala herd grazing peacefully, but with no sign that there was a predator in the area, we moved on shortly.
A few hundred metres further down the road, we received a radio call from Ranger Al Jordan. He was taking a walk in the area with his guests, and – not having the noise of an engine obscuring sound – had heard impalas alarming very close to where he could hear us driving in the distance. I immediately switched off the Land Rover, and we heard the unmistakeable noise of alarm calls coming from the very same impala herd we had just left.
After a high-speed 3-point turn, we rushed back, swinging off the road in the direction the impalas were staring. There we immediately spotted two hyenas devouring a still-kicking impala. And within 20 metres of them were the Nhlanguleni female and her two cubs, watching.
Initially skittish she spent a lot of time in the Sand River, now relaxed she makes up the majority of leopard viewing west of camp.
It wasn’t clear if the adult leopard had brought down the impala and then been robbed, but that seemed the most likely scenario.
The hyenas were fully focused on feeding, but as more and more meat was eaten and the carcass fell apart more and more, one of the leopard cubs, probably emboldened by the fact that the hyenas were distracted, snuck in to try and steal some food. It was noticed by one of the hyenas and sent scurrying.
Taking her gap, the Nhlanguleni female came sneaking in to see what she could appropriate of the kill, but having repulsed the cub, the hyena ran back in to protect the carcass. This didn’t stop the Nhlanguleni female from taking a swipe at the hyena as it came past.
The second hyena had moved off with a large chunk of meat, leaving the first one feeding, but a hunk of the impala’s rump lay a little bit aside, and the leopard settled down to feed on this, while her two cubs stayed up in a nearby marula.
It was fascinating to see leopard and hyena essentially feeding side-by-side. Two iconic African predators who compete regularly for food, but once they both have it, they almost get along…”