AGE - OLD ADVERSARIES
Silhouettes of the fully leafed trees stood against the peeking sun as we set off on morning game drive with caffeine filled bellies.
The dawn chorus of Southern Bou Bou’s, Black Crowned Tchagra’s, White-Browed Scrub Robins, Woodlands Kingfishers and the odd Jacobin Cuckoo met us as we drove out of Kirkman’s Kamp. The Rollercoaster female leopard had killed a female Bushbuck the previous morning and we were keen to see if she had fetched her 12 month old male cub in the meantime.
Wonderful white sand subsided as the tyres of the land rover propelled us to the final resting place of another Rollercoaster murder victim. As the massive Jackalberry tree in which she had hoisted her prize came into view, the rosetted shape of a leopard was unmistakable. After repositioning the vehicle for the best possible photographic opportunities, we examined the scene. It was not the Rollercoaster female feeding off the bushbuck, but her year-old son. She was in a nearby thicket watching her offspring gorging himself. She soon got up, ascended the majestic tree and nonchalantly grabbed the remaining meat from her son. A quick descent found her enjoying the rest of her hard earned meal in a nearby thicket.
That’s when the first one arrived. A mere 100m away, the first Hyena had picked up the scent of the kill. It came wondering in the direction of the leopardess. Then there were 2, then 3 and eventually 4 Hyenas were making their way to the unsuspecting leap of leopard. The Hyenas were very hesitant. The leopard and its kill were in thick bush, so the Hyenas needed to make sure that it wasn’t in fact a pride of lions on a kill. A short rush of speed. Confusion. Chaos. The bloodcurdling sound of whooping and laughing Hyenas was met by the hiss and snarl of an enraged leopard. Eternal Enemies had clashed again.
The Rollercoaster female was up that same Jackalberry tree in a flash. The characteristic hyena sounds gave way to the sounds of cracking bones and grunts of mealtime pleasure. Mother and Son continued to snarl and spit their fury at the adversaries. After a few minutes, the Rollercoaster female did something I’ve never seen a female leopard do before. She ran down the tree and charged the 4 hyenas at full speed. They got a massive fright and retreated a few metres before regaining their courage.
This was all the time the leopard needed. She grabbed hold of the bushbuck remains and climbed the nearest Knobt horn tree (Acacia Nigrencs) with amazing speed and agility. From here she could finish her meal at leisure without the hassles of her nemesis. The Hyenas preceded to meander around the area for a while, looking for any scraps that the leopards might’ve spared.
The Sabi Sands, especially Kirkman’s Kamp, is renowned for its superb predator interactions. This was by far the best interaction I had seen in my 14 months of guiding. It was a massive privilege to have been an observer of this never-ending feud between the Hyena and Leopard. And the craziest thing about this is: This happens somewhere in Africa every day, we just need to be there at the right time and the right place to see it. This is easier said than done though…
Posted: Kirkman's Kamp by Jacques-Pierre Joubert, Date: 14 March 2012