Leopard guards his impala kill
13th June 2019
It was already dark when I got back to the area where the leopard had its impala kill. I wasn’t exactly sure where I had it and was scanning the area as I drove. I found the drag marks across the track and shining to the my left saw some strange hairy shapes. 4 Bushpigs, 2 adults and 2 youngsters were busy tucking in to the impala carcass. It was in the open, right where I had left it. How did the vultures no find it? Why hadn’t the leopard taken it into a thicket? Where was the leopard now? The bushpigs had found the carcass perfectly open for them to tuck in to the intestines and meat. Jostling between each other they were clearly relishing all this protein. They must have got my scent, cos as one they bolted and never returned. I got myself into position for the night. I drove a little closer right up against the trunk of a Raintree. Its cover would keep the dew off me. The carcass was about 20m away, my headlights would shine perfectly on it. It was lying in the open on an elephant path running east west. About 5m to the north of the carcass was a low anthill behind which was a big Leadwood with some scrub around it. The moon was bright, already bulging on its way to full. The elephant path went past a dead fallen Raintree, its lightly coloured trunk shining like ivory in this light and its roots, from my position formed the shape of a large X. (No, not extra large…) I was sitting in a grove of Raintrees, their shadows covering me, so making me less obvious, although that’s not so easy when I’ve got Joanie with me. Then I saw him coming along the elephant path just east of the X. It was a young male leopard.
He didn’t go straight to the carcass, but moved around behind me, continued round and approached the carcass from the north, seeming to use the anthill as cover. He seemed unperturbed that the bush pigs had been feeding and soon settled in to feed. He wasn’t tucking into the tender fresh rump, but was taking the intestines and pulling them through his front teeth, so extruding the contents and only eating the meaty covering. He stopped feeding, lions were roaring not far away. Then back to feeding. Eventually he rested up on the anthill grooming himself meticulously. A hyaena called further east and every 8seconds a Scops Owl called from the top of a Leadwood tree not too far away. The lions called again several times in the night. They were moving west but probably not even 500m away. Predawn I was woken by crunching at the carcass. The leopard was feeding again. There was a faint hint of light to the east and Ground Hornbills were thundering their calls somewhere in the dense riverine. It really is such an awesome sound! In the freshly approaching dawn, a pair of jackals, their coats light against the dark background, had just discovered the leopard. They came closer and closer. And then let rip with their ear piercing mobbing calls. The leopard was well fed and moved off with all this interference. (But he hadn’t actually) The jackals never moved in to feed, which was odd. With the light now shining through the trees, I left. Further west, about 500m from the leopard kill, vultures were perched in a tree. Was there another kill here? I stopped to listen AND have a quick pee. Getting back in the car, the vultures all flew off straight towards the leopard kill. I went back round to find them all in a tree close by and lying on the anthill… was the leopard. He had probably been there all day, which had kept them away. AND he was probably lying in the scrub earlier, which was preventing the jackals from coming in.
It was a stalemate and I left, but returned about an hour later to find the vultures still waiting but no leopard and no kill. He’d dragged it about a hundred meters east and stashed it under a very dense Capparis thicket, where no vulture or anything dared venture. It was his for the duration…