A few nights ago we were lucky to witness the Tamboti female in full flight. It is well known that this stunning leopard possesses exceptional skills as a hunter, and on this night her skills were on display for us all to witness.
It was ironic how we managed to find this fine lady. It was late evening, and we had been following the Newington male as he moved about without much enthusiasm. The Princess Alice Pans male showed up and passed by his son. It was an uneventful interaction – as we’ve seen between these two males in the past, with no more than a few growls being exchanged.One of the Land Rovers followed the Princess Alice Pans male as he appeared to have more purpose than the Newington male.
This turned out to be an unlucky decision on their part, since the Princess Alice Pans male was later lost when he moved into dense bush. While trying to find him again, we came across the Tamboti female. This was a pleasant surprise since we had not seen her for some time.
The Tamboti female was looking hungry, and was clearly on the hunt. It was not long before she arrived at the Airstrip. The open areas of the runway teems with impala during the dark hours. These antelope tend to congregate on the open areas during the night, as their vision is unhindered by vegetation which makes it easier for them to spot any predators. The Tamboti female was all too aware of this, as she crept stealthily along the verges of the cut grass, making her way toward one lone ram that was within range. She got as close as she could to the unsuspecting impala without blowing her cover. The waiting game was now on. This is where leopards can show incredible patience before they choose to strike. The impala ram continued to graze calmly, completely unaware of the danger.
In a swift movement the leopard made her assault, and in a flash she had the impala on the ground. The Tamboti female was still in the process of suffocating the ram when a male leopard showed up.
We thought it must be the Princess Alice Pans male, since he was last seen in the area, but it turned out to be the Newington male. The male sat tranquilly within a few metres of the kill site, but the female was too preoccupied to notice. A few moments passed and the female finally saw that she had company. She leaped back with fright, releasing her catch, that was still very much alive. The Newington male swept in and took over. The impala soon breathed his last breath, and the Newington male could now look forward to a free meal. Realising she had no chance to compete, the Tamboti female moved off. It was a stormy night, which provides good hunting conditions, so she should have been able to make another kill without too much trouble.
The next morning we headed back to the scene to follow up. There was an interesting message left for us in the sand, showing what had occurred during the night. It would appear that the Newington male had to fend off a few hyenas that tried to claim his already stolen meal. We could see the trail where the hyenas had dragged the carcass in one direction, and the leopard tracks dragging it back. The leopard managed to overcome the hyenas, and we followed his tracks and the drag marks from the dangling carcass. He was clearly trying to move his meal to a place of safety, but there were no trees in the immediate area. We would have to follow the trail for a few hundred metres before we arrived at the banks of the Sand River. Here the leopard would have been spoiled for choice, with many magnificent trees that would provide an ideal place for him to cache his kill. And there it was – we discovered the carcass dangling neatly from the large bough of a Jakkalberry Tree. The leopard fed off the kill for the following three days.
Ranger – MalaMala Game Reserve