As one would expect, the nomadic Ntomi Male has been moving around a lot more in the last few weeks than he previously was. We set off in search of him early one morning and sheer luck would have it we simply stumble across him sitting on the edge of a waterhole fixated on something beneath him in the water.
A single cub of the Ximungwe Female's second litter. Initially rather skittish but is very relaxed now. Birth mark in his left eye.
All we could see in the waterhole was a large female hippo wallowing in the small waterhole below him. She too, was well aware of this young leopard’s presence. Moments later, a tiny newborn hippo sprung to the surface for a brief moment before disappearing again below the surface. The mother was concerned as this leopard continued to carefully watch their movements. The hippo continued to nudge this tiny hippo through the water as they moved across the waterhole further away from the Ntomi Male.
As they moved towards the other end of the waterhole the Ntomi Male slowly stalked along the water’s edge before disappearing into the nearby thickets.
We soon realized this calf must have been born at some point that morning when the mother walked out of the water. The tiny hippo trying to follow its mother out of the water was unable to walk just yet and so fell over a number of times. In fact, what we were seeing was some of the very first steps it could have ever taken on land. With the mother noticeably agitated with the presence of a leopard around, we parked our vehicle on the other side of the waterhole to not add any stress or pressure on the mother from our side. The Ntomi Male was still close by to the hippo but neither of us could see him.
The hippo calf tried to walk up the bank but struggled to keep up with its mother who kept returning to the tiny calf. After a few stumbles, it got to a small gully where all of a sudden the Ntomi male crept behind and grabbed the hind of this newborn hippo calf.
Within seconds the mother hippo turned and charged at the leopard as the hippo calf lay helplessly. The Ntomi Male ran off into the bush with the charging hippo behind him. As soon as she could the hippo mother turned and went straight back to her calf and led it over a small hill and down towards another nearby waterhole.
With no sign of the Ntomi Male, we looped to the next waterhole to find that the calf and mother had safely made it to the shallow part of the next waterhole. Moments later the curious Ntomi Male appeared once more as he cautiously remained on the banks of the next waterhole.
After some time the hippo and calf sought refuge in a small shallow bay of the waterhole. After being born in the shallows of a waterhole, the hippo calf will spend most of its time in the water, where it will suckle unwater and after about a week will be able to then follow its mother when she heads off at night to graze. During this time the mother hippo will remain with the calf nudging it to the surface to help it take another breath.
The Ntomi Male eventually found a concealed spot where he watched the hippos from behind a branch. When the mother hippo would look towards him he would lie flat to hide from it. It was unlikely that this young leopard would be able to successfully catch this hippo calf but with time and experience, he would soon realize that this would be an unlikely hunt for him.
We left this mother and calf with the Ntomi male lurking in the thickets until returning the next morning to find the mother and calf still in the bay, where they were then seen for a few more days after that. It seems the Ntomi Male finally lost interest and the little hippo calf and although an unsuccessful hunt for him it is certainly a good learning experience as he learns the art of hunting.