Late one afternoon drive, former ranger and Londolozi legend, Ian Thomas, announced over the radio that he had found a male leopard with a fresh impala ram kill. Being nearby we quickly joined Ian, hoping to see the Senegal Bush male hoist his kill into a nearby tree as darkness was fast approaching. The kill remained on the ground however, so we decided to leave the leopard for the evening so as not to draw in any hyenas unnecessarily, who would likely steal his kill. Our plan was to return in the morning to see if he had managed to hold on to his kill throughout the night.
We arrived just before sunrise, and saw that not only had the Senegal Bush male managed to hoist his kill into a marula tree but there was another leopard in the tree with him; the Nkoveni female high up in the upper branches. It was difficult to see her, and the Senegal Bush male meanwhile was resting at the base of the tree. The atmosphere was tense to say the least; with the odd growl here and there the Nkoveni female was very much on edge, appearing as though she did not want to move a muscle.
If tensions weren’t high enough already, another leopard emerged out of the thicket- the Ximungwe female. As quick as a flash, the Senegal Bush male shot up the tree to defend his kill. Watch the video for the interaction between the leopards:
The Nkoveni female raced down the marula to the ground as soon as she saw a gap. Much growling and hissing ensued as the pair of females sized each other up. After a minute or two, the Nkoveni female beat a hasty retreat and the Ximungwe female made her way fearlessly towards the Senegal Bush male. The two leopardesses are in fact half-sisters; both are daughters of the Mashaba female, although from different fathers. However, this has no bearing on their attitude towards each other now as they are both independent leopards and essentially competing for the same resources.
The Ximungwe female was clearly the braver of the two females, as she has spent a lot more time in the Senegal Bush male’s company in the past. It was a brazen although unsuccessful attempt to rob the Senegal Bush Male of his kill, and you could quite evidently see he was not happy about that.
It seemed unfathomable that this small female was attempting the unenviable task of dispossessing a grumpy male of his kill. The Ximungwe female hung around for a while after her attempts at theft but had no luck in obtaining anything to eat.
After a few minutes of squabbling, the pair settled down, and the Ximungwe female relaxed while the Senegal Bush male went back to feeding. Later that afternoon other rangers returned to find both leopards had moved off and the kill had been stolen by a small group of the Ntsevu pride. It seems the Ntsevu pride have developed quite a knack for tree climbing recently and the local leopards are going to have to remain vigilant when feeding on their kills in the branches.
With the lions having finished off the kill and three leopards going off in separate directions I paused to reflect on that special sighting. No matter how the story ended, I was still so grateful to witness the coming together of three independent leopards. Sightings like this are rare but they do provide us with a glimpse into the amazing lives of these beautiful creatures and they further add to the mystique that surrounds the legendary Leopards of Londolozi.