There’s no substitute for experience, but even 11 years of survival in the heart of one of the densest leopard populations in the world doesn’t prevent Londolozi’s oldest territorial female from making mistakes.
The Mashaba female was found recently with an impala ram kill high up in a Tamboti tree on the banks of the Maxabene riverbed.
Ranger Sean Zeedeberg was in the sighting as she tried to reposition it, and managed to capture this footage:
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
As kills are consumed their position needs to be shifted by the leopard, both from a balance point of view and so that the leopard can still access the best bits of meat. It can be during this re-positioning that a kill will fall – sometimes it breaks and sometimes the leopard will slip and drop it – which is when any hyenas lurking below will have their opportunity to rush in and steal it. Cubs in particular are likely to drop kills as they lack both the experience and strength of their mothers. Often we’ll see hyenas not even bothering to approach when an adult feeds, but as soon as a cub is on the kill they will move in quickly, knowing food is more likely, and quite possibly also in an attempt to fluster the cub into a mistake.
The Mashaba female in Sean’s sighting didn’t have to worry about sharing with a cub (although we believe she has given birth somewhere), or losing the kill to hyenas, but she was still fortunate that the kill didn’t fall all the way to the ground. She had to do a bit of awkward shifting of the impala carcass to be able to feed comfortably again, but all was well that ended well…