Usually when we see leopards out on safari we see them alone, the exceptions to this rule is mothers and their cubs or on the rare occasion when these elusive big cats are mating. However, a few weeks ago we had reports of a young male leopard (who was reaching independence) who had killed an impala and had hoisted it high up into the branches of a tree that was over hanging one of our large dry riverbeds.
We made our way to the sighting, and on arrival found the young male lying in the dry riverbed. The setting was absolutely beautiful with the stunning cat out in the open and an even more stunning backdrop as nature had painted the sky with the colors of sunset.
The following morning we returned to the area only to find another young male leopard in the tree feeding on the impala carcass and no sign of the original youngster we had seen the previous day. He fed for a while before making his way down the tree, when all of a sudden the original leopard showed up and quickly climbed up to reclaim his kill. He was immediately followed by the other young male who was half his size and half his age.
There was a short struggle as the two leopards had a tug of war over the carcass. The larger male soon managed to muscle it away from his smaller competitor and once he had secured the carcass in a fork of the tree he viciously attacked the smaller male.
The struggle was brief but it resulted in the smaller male losing his grip and plummeting down to the ground, a drop of over 10 metres.
The saying “a cat always lands on its feet” was not the case here as the male landed on his back. For a few seconds he lay stunned on the ground at the base of the tree before getting up and slinking off into a nearby thicket. We were left wondering if he was going to be okay.
However later that evening when we returned to the site we found the two young males together yet again, though this time they were in the company of a female leopard – the mother of the older leopard cub.
The trio of leopards seemed to have settled all differences and we saw them walking together and at times even playing with each other. This is something that is hardly ever seen where a female ‘adopts’ another female’s youngster and was truly a memorable sighting for all of us who witnessed it.
Post by Umlani Bushcamp