Patience often pays off in the bush. Those of you that have been on safari before will know that in order to see some of the more spectacular things on offer, one might have to be prepared to wait a while for things to play to out. This is exactly what we did a few days ago. After finding the Three Rivers Female with half an impala hoisted in a beautiful jackelberry tree on the banks of a dry river bed. We decided to set ourselves up under its shade and wait for her to hop back up into the tree and start feeding again. Having along with me some guests that were keen to get a photograph of a leopard in a tree, it only made sense to stick around as she was inevitably going to climb the tree again; it was just a matter of time.
My story though is not actually about the leopard going up the tree but rather what kept us entertained during the time that we were parked there and waiting. Sometimes these waiting periods can last for hours and on this particular morning, we sat for nearly three hours until she eventually ascended the tree and started to feed. During these times I try to keep myself entertained by watching the other smaller creatures that wander on by. Birds usually take up a lot of that time but on this morning it was a sneaky slender mongoose that caught our attention.
Slender mongoose are one of the smaller carnivores around these parts and and are generally known to feed on insects and occasionally smaller mammals and birds. However, they are rather opportunistic…
On this morning, the Three Rivers Female had been lying in some long grass on a termite mound adjacent to a large jackelberry tree in which she had the hoisted impala yearling. After quite some time sitting and waiting for her to rise from her slumber we noticed a rustle in the grass not long before a slender mongoose inquisitively poked his nose out. It scanned around, paying careful attention to the leopard who was still fast asleep just a couple of feet away. Quietly but swiftly, the mongoose scampered over towards the area directly beneath where the impala was hanging. It was here that a few of the tiny scraps of the impala were spread out, having fallen from the tree during the leopard’s last feeding session.
After scooping up these tasty morsels, the mongoose turned his attention to bigger things and began to plot his plan to get closer to the kill itself. He gazed up into the branches and quickly plan his route up the tree, still as careful as ever not to disturb the leopard.
He ran over to the base of the tree, up the trunk, and onto the first forked branch. Here he paused for a moment, making sure that the leopard was still asleep, which she was. Next, he slowly moved along the branch towards where the impala was hanging.
As he arrived alongside the kill and began to feed, a tiny piece of the impala dropped to the ground below. This landing on the soft grass roused to leopard who shot her head up and looked up towards the hard-earned meal.
The mongoose froze with fear as both animals paused to plan their next move. The leopard jumped to her feet ran down the small mound that she had been sleeping on and towards the base of the jackelberry tree. The mongoose, evidently feeling cornered threw itself off the branch. For a moment he flew through the sky like a flying squirrel, landing on the ground below and making a hasty retreat into a fallen log that lay a few meters away.
We all found this skill of acrobatics rather amusing and quite impressive. And, in addition to that, it had woken up the leopard who now sat at the base of the tree and began to groom. It wasn’t long before she herself decided to climb the tree and continue feeding on the impala; which was what we had been waiting for in the first place!