We found our mother leopard and her three cubs as they moved through the reeds. We caught a few inconsistent glimpses of them as they moved, until they finally emerged into a clearing. They leisurely strolled towards the treeline, and the cubs began to play.
From our position we could see a herd of impala moving towards us through the clearing. Mother cat immediately took on a hunting stance, and commenced her silent stalk towards her prey. The cubs lay flat and motionless, in waiting.
Suddenly and without warning, the leopard pounced from her position, snatching a female impala and bringing it down with great speed and force. The rest of the herd panicked and scattered in all directions. In its frenzy, an impala ewe ran straight into the three cubs. Instinct kicked in, and they tried to take it down – but failed. Two of the cubs then quickly made their way towards their mother, and helped her to kill the impala she had, motionless in her jaws.
The antelope’s dying kicks soon stopped, and the two cubs immediately began to feed. The third cub stayed in the treeline while their mother nervously scouted the area for any other predators which could have been attracted by the commotion.
Within five minutes we could hear the alarm calls of impala on the other side of the treeline. The mother cat headed towards the noise and one cub left the carcass, leaving one cub still feeding.
We saw a glimpse of gold, with a signature black mane as a male lion approached ahead of us. My heart raced as I panicked for the safety of the cub. The lion had been attracted by the noise of the impala, and slunk silently closer to us while the one cub remained feeding on the carcass, completely oblivious to the imminent danger.
At this point it must be said that my job is to watch nature unfold, without interfering. This is often easier said than done!
The mother growled from somewhere in the treeline, distracting the male lion before he reached his prize. He began to follow her. Unbelievably, the leopard cub still fed on the carcass! Several minutes later the cub dashed towards us …. and just in time, as the lion emerged and sprinted towards the carcass. The cub leaped into the tree next to my vehicle.
The lion dragged his stolen trophy into the bush and began to feed. Meanwhile the young leopard pretended to look comfortable from his elevated vantage point.
We stayed for a while, watching the young leopard in the tree and the lion lying beneath. As the sun began to drop I left the scene feeling somewhat exhausted by the adrenaline rush, the excitement and the nervous anticipation I had experienced over the last hour!
A sighting I will not soon forget.