Many guests have been fortunate enough to see many different habituated leopards at Londolozi, it is almost guaranteed that every guest who stays at Londolozi will see at least one during their stay. As rangers and trackers, we will try our best to work together using our skills of tracking and understanding the nature of leopards to make sure we will show you the leopards of Londolozi. A sighting like this is often the pinnacle of leopard viewing.
That being said, it was day two of a recent set of guests’ stay and the leopards were being true to their elusive behaviour. Every track we followed, and every alarm call we listened to led us to a missed rosette coat that had managed to avoid being found as they slipped into the thickets.
Determined to find a leopard for the guests, we set out early in the morning before sunrise. We drove to the Londolozi airstrip to use the elevation to our advantage and listen to the dawn chorus and the bushveld coming alive, with the chance of us hopefully hearing something extra to point us in the right direction. While the guests were enjoying the birdsong, Tracker Advice and I were carefully listening for any signs of the bush telling us where to find a leopard. This might sound strange, but yes, if you listen to the sounds of the bush it will help us find what we are looking for. In particular, we were listening out for the territorial call of a leopard in the morning or an alarm call from an impala or possibly bushbuck that has seen a leopard.
Sure enough, we had not been sitting there for too long when we heard a kudu’s alarm call, highlighting that it had seen some form of danger, possibly a leopard. The excitement built rapidly and we were off in the direction of the kudu. It didn’t take too long before we found the kudu, looking slightly agitated and on the road nearby were tracks of a male leopard. He had to be close. With the help of another vehicle also in the area, it wasn’t long before we would find the leopard. We headed straight there to get a view of this magnificent cat for our guests. As we were slowly driving into the sighting, yet to lay eyes on the leopard, head ranger James Souchon on the other vehicle, gestured with his hand to hurry up.
As we approached a termite mound, we spotted the Senegal Bush Male’s tail sticking out from a burrow in the mound. It flicked around and gradually vanished into the hole with a growl and a grunt bellowing out from where the leopard was. His tail then disappeared entirely.
What was happening?
He had managed to get into the burrow of a warthog, a big warthog, big enough to pull a fully grown male leopard into the depths of the burrow. Then all of a sudden there was a dust cloud and we all got our videos ready holding our breaths, expecting to see the Senegal Bush Male come out with a warthog hanging in his jaws.
The Senegal Bush Male emerged from the burrow, blood stains across his face and body covered in grey sand. He was exhausted and lay next to the hole. We sat there in suspense as he appeared to be waiting for something to happen.
In another cloud of dust, a warthog came bursting out of the hole but the Senegal Bush Male was ready. There was dust everywhere, the atmosphere filled with distress calls from the warthog. When the dust settled the Senegal Bush Male was in a full tussle with the warthog, holding on with all his might, not letting the warthog escape his jaws and claws again. The warthog doing everything possible to escape but sadly, with very little success. It was such an intense battle between two very powerful and equally matched animals.
While this was all happening, we could hear the kudus alarming again, very likely the same kudu from earlier based on where the calls were coming from. Advice and I looked at each other, “Ahh!” Maybe there is a second male nearby and coming this way. Within minutes and while the Senegal Bush Male was still battling the warthog, the Ntomi Male, son of the Senegal Bush Male, emerged from the thickets nearby. He must have heard the distress calls of the warthog and came to investigate. Curiously watching, hoping to get a mouthful to eat when the time would present itself, he wasn’t the only one to hear the commotion. One of the other rangers had seen a hyena running in our direction more than two kilometres away. Before we knew it the hyena came barrelling in and stole the carcass from the leopards before either could get a mouthful.
Defeated the Senegal Bush Male lay down, he had been attempting to kill this warthog for more than an hour, from the initial scuffle inside the mound to the final takedown. I could not help but feel sorry for all his hard work being put into catching this meal only for it to be stolen by the opportunistic hyena.
Rapidly feasting the hyena took about 20 minutes to devour almost 80 per cent of the warthog carcass until it finally could not eat anymore. Thankfully the two leopards managed to steal some of the kill back. Which made us all sigh with relief.
We all looked at each other and said wow, from a simple stop on the Londolozi airstrip to start off the game drive, to hearing the kudu alarm calls and a set of dusty tracks on the road all leading us to the immense battle and all the hard work of the Senegal Bush Male made this sighting even more worth it.