Monkeys alarming way in the distance got us on track late one afternoon. It was the sound of hyenas fighting that gave us even better direction. Finally we found the scene playing out along the banks of the Maxabene riverbed. Four wild dog were busy crunching on the remains of something indistinguishable while a clan of three or four hyena were lurking behind bushes nearby.
“There’s a leopard!” Greg Pingo shouted in excitement. I couldn’t quite believe it. Not even fifteen metres behind us in a rather flimsy looking branch was the Senegal Bush male. He was perched looking down on the action unfolding below, albeit probably not quite as excitedly as we were.
The sound of footsteps erupted around us as two more hyena came running in to try and get their share of the feast. Cackling, laughing and growling noises echoed down the riverbed as the hyena and the wild dogs faced up against each other in a clash. All the while above us, vultures perched on a dead tree and two eagles grappled talons in dispute. Action was unfolding all around us!
Part of the excitement of a situation like this is piecing together the evidence to try and work out what may have happened prior to us arriving there. Based on the monkey alarm calls that we heard, we assume a leopard made a kill along the thicket lining the dry riverbed. The pack of four wild dog were possibly hunting nearby and may have been drawn in by the commotion. With the sight of four dogs approaching, the leopard would have dropped the kill and leapt into the closest tree to get away from the dogs. When feeding, dogs can make quite a racket – an array of twittering and chirping noises. This is music to hyenas’ ears, thus they would have been attracted in by the combination of monkey alarms and dog feeding noise. We’ll never quite know exactly what happened, but this is one likely scenario…
It all ended rather peacefully for the parties involved. The dogs walked off, completely ignoring the marauding hyenas as they went. The hyenas came in to where the carcass was and sniffed about for anything they could get. Eventually the male leopard descended the tree, somewhat clumsily, to scurry away from all the others into the night. His territorial rasping calls echoed down the riverbed behind us as he went.