Text and images: James Moodie
On the afternoon of the 14 August 2015, rangers and guests alike all stood by Main Camp reception to head out for the afternoon game drive. Temperatures were soaring in the mid 30’s and for a short period of the drive it seemed that the animals had all decided to seek shelter from the sweltering sun. Only the elephants seemed to brave the heat and head to the river to have a much needed wallow and drink.
Whilst watching the elephant, one of the rangers then called in a female leopard who had just killed a small scrub hare, and those in the area responded immediately. It was a leopardess known as the Kikilezi Female who has a large territory adjacent to the camp. She too was lying in the shade of a large Apple leaf tree, feeding comfortably in the middle of an area known as Picadilly Triangle. She had recently just watched her two daughters become independant, both of whom seem to be trying to establish themselves in the same area as their mom. After she had eaten half of the scrub hare, she stopped and started walking through the open area towards the bushline, carrying the front half of the hare. Whilst walking she was also constantly contact calling, desperately trying to find her daughters, presumably in an attempt to offer them what little remained of her small kill, although both daughters at this stage had been found quite a long way north of her in the Mlowathi River.
The rangers followed her and just before the thicker bush she stopped and stashed her kill in a Spikethorn thicket, all the while contact calling. Suddenly she stopped, pricked up her ears and started staring into the thicket. We all looped around to the other side of the thicket to see what had grabbed her attention and noticed a juvenile Bateleur in the grass. Without hesitation she ran at the eagle and pounced on top of it, with the eagle trying to escape for its life. For several minutes the two had a tussle in the bushes, obviously the much larger and powerful leopardess coming out on top.
Eventually she seemed to lose interest in the helpless bird and went in for the throat shot, grabbing the eagle at the base of its neck, ready for the killing blow. Strangely enough the leopardess immediately let it go without the fatal bite, lifting her head and grimacing at something she tasted. As quickly as she had started, she had also finished, letting go of the bird, return to retrieve the kill, and continued walking into the bushes.
She never did find her daughters, and after a short time she took to finishing the kill herself. The bateleur stayed in the same thicket, still alive but in a very poor condition, eventually taking its last breath.