Finding leopards and cheetahs is never easy. Finding them together is nearly impossible!
I say nearly impossible, because I was lucky enough to witness an altercation between the two spotted cats!
Initially, the coalition of four male cheetahs was spotted close to the edge of a large clearing. They were resting in the brilliant golden sunlight which made for some excellent images. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, until a female leopard was spotted moving cautiously towards the cheetah brothers in the bushes close by.
At first, the cheetahs were not aware of the leopard’s presence, and no real drama seemed imminent. The fact that there were four large male cheetahs probably kept the single female leopard at bay initially, but she did move into a position to get a better look.
In a normal situation, cheetahs are easily overpowered by leopards, and sprint away from any conflict. Being such specialized hunters, (an all out foot race reaching speeds of close to 120km/h), the cheetahs cannot afford to fight, as an injury, even a minor one, could cripple them enough to kill them.
This was not a normal situation though. The female leopard, aged at just over ten years, is an experienced campaigner, but seemed indecisive when it came time to charge in and assert her dominance. She stalked closer to the brothers, who had now noticed her, and moved forward to investigate. One of the cheetahs seemed a little more nervous than his brothers, and backed away from the fight, leaving the remaining three, closely bound, to take on the aggressor.
The show of defiance seemed to put the leopard on the back foot, and the spotted cats were temporarily locked in poker style stale mate. The leopard called the cheetahs bluff, and was out the tree and upon them in a flash. It turned out, much to our – and the leopard’s – surprise, that the bluff was backed by some substance, because the cheetahs turned the tables on the leopard, and while she was distracted by the individual she was chasing, she let the other two brothers round her, and found herself being chased!
In a few mad seconds, the cheetahs were hot on the leopard’s heels, and sent her up a nearby tree.
It was a crazy dash of spots and cats, which resulted in a few decent images.