Lion and leopard stand-off

Emsagwen male leopard and Marthly lioness by Chris Hall

We set our early this morning to follow up on the four male lions from yesterday. As we headed into the vicinity we found tracks of two leopards heading towards the last area we’d seen the lions. Just as we rounded the corner we found the Emsagwen male leopard and the Campbell Koppies female leopard on Matumi rocks.

The pair was still mating, albeit with much less frequency.

They then moved off the rock and parted ways, ending their mating marathon. While following the Campbell Koppies female, we crested the ridge leading out of the Sand River and ran straight into the four male lions and two of the Marthly lionesses.

The lions weren’t aware of the leopard’s presence, but she’d obviously seen them because she’d suddenly vanished into thin air.

In the meantime we also lost sight of the Emsagwen male as he disappeared into some thick reeds in the direction of the lions.

A little while later we found the large male leopard from Sparta lying about 50m away from the rest of the lions and leopards.

He wasn’t in a good mood.

And we figured out why as soon as we saw the Emsagwen male feeding on the remains of a male bushbuck in a nearby tree. It looked like the Emsagwen male had bumped into his old nemesis while trying to find the Campbell Koppies female, and then chased him off the kill.

Even though he was well fed, the large male from Sparta was still incredibly irritated at having lost his meal to his rival.

The Emsagwen male then took the kill out of the tree and dragged it over the ridge. What he wasn’t aware of however, was that he was heading straight to where the lions were sleeping.

As he crested the ridge he saw the lions and immediately did an about turn, but not before one of the lionesses spotted him first and gave chase. The leopard quickly scaled a Jackalberry tree with the kill, but that didn’t deter the lioness as she followed him up in a flash.

The minute the Emsagwen male let go of the kill she was onto it. The lioness had the leopard cornered at the top of the tree, but she was unsure of her footing and so didn’t attack the leopard outright. He in turn wasn’t taking any chances though, and went for the lioness in the hope that she would either fall or back off.

Unfortunately this tactic didn’t work.

The lioness fought back, and after a brief scuffle the Emsagwen male jumped out of the tree and sought refuge in a nearby Sausage tree. No sooner was he up the tree when the four male lions came over the ridge and went straight for him. The remaining Marthly female eventually appeared on the scene, but knowing her chances of getting any of the bushbuck were slim to nothing, she simply lay down to watch the ensuing chaos.

The lioness stayed in the tree and fed off the kill, while the four males circled the base like sharks waiting for scraps to fall. The unscarred male even made several attempts at climbing the tree, but each time he’d get halfway up and then remember that lions aren’t actually supposed to climb trees and abandon his efforts.

The lioness in the tree devoured most of the kill, before dropping the two front legs. Needless to say these were greedily snapped up by two of the males. She then descended the tree and moved back into the open area with the other female. Two of the males followed them, and when the other two had finished their snack they joined the others on the crest of the river bank.

All six lions then fell fast asleep. Although only when the lions had moved off did the Emsagwen male cautiously descend the tree. Once he reached the ground his bravado returned, and he made a big show of scent marking the tree that had held him safe for the past hour. He then strutted off down the road as if it was any other morning.

10 thoughts on “Lion and leopard stand-off

  1. Wow,
    Emsagwen is an impressive male, compared to lioness. How much difference in size there is between Emsagwe male leopard and that lioness? How much big is Emsagwen?
    Lioness is averge on 125 kg. if i’m correct.

  2. Wow,
    wanderful Leopard Emsagwen and exceptionally big!
    The other male from Sparta lying about 50m away from the rest of the lions and leopards was the Camp Pan male leopard?

  3. Hi again Alexander. The Emsagwen male is a very impressive male. Territory wise he covers a vast area, probably the biggest covered by any male on the reserve at this point in time, therefore having many females with their territories in his range. Size wise it is always difficult to get an exact estimation of weight in the field, the lioness in question is from the Marthly Pride, an estimation of 125 kg would not be far off. The Emsagwen male is about 80 kg. 😉

  4. This was a fantastic sighting! Leopards, lions everywhere! It was an exciting morning as I remember.

  5. Although it is rare, lions have been known to climb trees. The fact that their claws are not adapted for this means that many of them injure themselves, sometimes fatally, in the process.

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