Prickly affair

The sun had set a while ago, but the moon almost full, was making sure it didn’t really get dark. I was just coming out the riverine having crossed the river and there he was, my friend, the young male leopard. There was a slight clearing where a dead Acacia galpinii stood. One of its main branches had fallen to the ground but was still attached about 2m up. The huge branch lay almost parallel to the ground and in that ‘typical’ leopard pose he was lying along it. It was as if he’d been waiting for me to go hunting, cos as I arrived he dropped off the branch and headed west. I tried to follow but the bush was too dense. I went back to the track, headed north and then followed it west a couple of kilometres before turning back. The night was warm and I was still in my shorts. The moon was only just bobbing around over the tall Nyala-berry trees as I continued east. Eyes to the south coming out of the riverine. I left the track moving around some young Acacias and found them again. It was the young male leopard coming towards me. (Was he really interested in my company?) I stopped. He sniffed at the base of a young Nyala-berry and continued on north. He was in great shape and looking fairly well fed. Some holes among some Sida bushes had him sniffing there too. There was a slight rise further north. When he could he stopped to peer over it scanning the area. Impala were about a hundred meters away feeding. Keeping himself low to the ground he glided towards another Nyala-Berry tree. Around the base of the tree were a number of excavations. Old and new warthog burrows. He was easily distracted and was sniffing around them, the impala appearing to be a distant memory. The excavations were ‘big’ and he lay down in one only his head sticking out. A pose I’ve seen him do on several occasions before. There didn’t appear to be anything there. He got up, “Ah yes, those impala”, the mind of a youngster. He moved into the shadow of the tree cast by the moon.

There was an old Nyala-berry log lying there, which he snuggled up against lying on the ground. The impala were feeding about 70m away. He waited as if hoping they might come closer. I was looking around in the moonlight and to my south moving around the small Sida bushes was a Genet. It seemed to be following his tracks and heading straight towards me. Then it veered off west to the base of another Nyala-berry. Just then the leopard got up but moved east, in a slow hurry, ignoring the impala. Something else had caught his attention. At another Nyala-berry he moved around the base south, came back sniffing and moved around to the north. As I came round the tree I saw the porcupine. In his casual way the leopard walked up to the porcupine obviously not expecting what was coming. With its quills flared like a raging bulls nostrils it charged backwards into the leopard. The sound of rattling quills and the porcupine stamping its feet on the ground, together with the backwards charge had the youngster jumping up and backwards like only a cat can. Round 1 goes to the porcupine. The porcupine trotted south its quills still flared. The leopard was close behind. They moved into a Sand-paper bush thicket that hung low to the ground. Big mistake by the porcupine because now its flared quills got caught up in the branches if it charged backwards. The leopard realised this and approached from the front. Porcupine turned. Leopard moved around again. The porcupine turned. Reaching his paw out gently as if testing to see if something is hot, the leopard tested the quills but got a huge fright again jumping back when the porcupine stamped its feet. The stalemate went on for a while. Then bored with the game the porcupine slowly moved out the bush and continued south. Leopard followed but he’d trot around ahead of the porcupine and wait for it, only to jump out the way when it got to him. It appeared this rodent had outsmarted him as they disappeared into the Croton thickets along the river bank…

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