The rain last week might have dampened the reserve, but it in no way dampened spirits or the wildlife sightings. On the first proper rainy day, the Ximungwe female was found by Ranger Jess Shillaw with a newly caught impala lamb very close to camp. Jess followed her, and the female leopard led her straight to her cub. The cub fed briefly on the lamb before the Flat Rock male arrived and stole it.
Our vehicle arrived quite a while after this had happened, thinking we might have missed the best of the action.
Far from it…
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
Over the next hour, I probably watched more leopards climbing trees than I had seen in all the rest of the year. The cub would attempt to stalk the zebras and they would chase him off, sending him scampering up another tree. More often than not, the zebras rushing in would get close enough to also scare the Ximungwe female, and she would have to seek refuge in the branches with her cub. It was a wonderful game of cat-and-mouse between the two species, which continued until well after dark, at which point both the adult leopard and her cub were holed up in a particularly big Marula, with the female’s patience apparently wearing thin, as she would snarl aggressively at her cub every time he approached.
I doubt I’ll have a sighting like that for awhile, but I’m not too worried, as the thrill of that hour in the rain spent watching the antics of both zebra and leopard will probably stay with me for a good few months.