The Senegal Bush Male leopard has provided not only consistent but phenomenal viewing over the previous few months for our guests at Londolozi. Now controlling the central parts of Londolozi as the dominant territorial male we are beginning to learn his patrol routes, helping us to find him during our game drives.
Initially seen as a young male in 2016, this leopard only properly established territory on Londolozi in mid-2019
He is seldom seen making a kill of his own, which I am sure he does from time to time. We are not entirely convinced of this as he has often been seen stealing kills from females within his territory.
We were fortunate to be there to witness one of these episodes and managed to catch it on film. But first, let me give a little bit of the back story.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.
The Mashaba Female Leopard had recently made an impala kill. After feeding on it for a while she managed to hoist it into a tree, keeping it safe from hyenas. We set off from camp with our plans of going down to see if she was still there, expecting to see her finishing off the remains of her kill.
As we drove in, I quickly noticed that it wasn’t a female in the tree but rather a big male – the Senegal Bush Male, having stolen another kill. After watching him feed for a while with the idea that the Mashaba Female would probably not be too far away. Reason being that even though her kill had been stolen by a larger male who, she would not be able to chase off the kill, females usually hang around the area and hope to feed on a portion of the kill when the male isn’t.
Sometimes this works out, while other times the male is too protective and does not let the female anywhere near the carcass.
All of a sudden we heard the frantic commotion of impalas alarm calling not too far away. The hyena that was patiently waiting under the Senegal Bush Male, lifted its head and took off running in the direction of the impala. We followed suit, except driving not running.
Ranger Nick Sims having the same idea got there before we did and found the Mashaba Female seconds after she had just killed another impala. Too heavy for her to hoist into a nearby tree the barrelling hyenas ran in and stole the kill from her before she knew it. Having had two kills stolen from her in one morning.
As the hyenas began to feed, out of the corner of my eye I saw the Senegal Bush Male arrive on the scene.
It truly was a morning where we did not know what to expect next. The turn of events was exhilarating. As a guide, our normal narrative to guests is that leopards are wary of hyenas and will avoid confrontation at all costs. This sighting just clearly blew that narrative out of the water. I guess it comes down to the size and confidence of the Senegal Bush Male, combined with him arriving on the scene and catching the hyenas by surprise. This caused them to flee, allowing him the split second to grab the carcass, holding it in his mouth alone, knowing he has the strength and agility to drag it into the tree before the hyenas were able to realise what was going on.
One on one a large male leopard will probably win over a hyena, however, the reason for our narrative is that with leopards being solitary, they cannot afford to risk injury as they have nobody else to rely on and their chances of survival are drastically reduced if they get injured. The Senegal Bush Male defies this logic.
It was such an incredible set of events. Once the excitement had died down I took a moment to reflect on these magnificent creatures – such skill, speed, and sheer strength. Not to take anything away from the Mashaba Female, who in her own right is an incredibly powerful animal, but the size difference and aggressive confident nature of the Senegal Bush Male made the difference in this situation.
Recently this video has got a lot of traction and rightfully so, it was an insane sighting. Expecting one thing, arriving to find another, and then it all escalating to something far beyond what we bargained for.