It’s raining cats and hyaenas

6 06 2011

I was out on an early morning safari, and not too much was on the cook – until I noticed a hyaena sniffing about a termite mound. I moved in to take a look, knowing that hyaenas investigate any potential meal thoroughly. It wasn’t even two minutes after we first saw the hyaena, when I saw a leopard cub popped her head up from behind the termite mound, and started sniffing the hyaena!
There is always a bit of fun to be had when the two species meet. This was no exception. The cub, having eaten her fill, was playing around the termite mound. The hyaena didn’t seem to mind the little presence behind it, and kept looking for the source of the smell. It looked up, giving away the position of the mother leopard, and her prized kudu kill. She had stashed it neatly in the fork of tree, hidden from nearly all angles, and just above the reach of the hyaena.
Just when the sighting seemed set, a crack of a bone behind us set the hyaena off in a flash! I looked back to see what the commotion was all about, and managed to catch a glimpse of a large male leopard legging it to the nearest tree, a long tailed cassia. He had what turned out to be the head of the unfortunate kudu in his jaws, and he was not about to sacrifice his trophy. He made it to the tree, and continued to work his way through the head of the kudu as if nothing had happened. The dejected hyaena, having been beaten twice, sulked off into the bush.
Having seen the action from the safety of the termite mound, the leopard cub moved slowly towards the tree, to see what the large male was all about. (The male had to have been the cub’s father, or else he would have killed her to bring her mother back into oestrus – his way of furthering his genes). The male, sure that he finished most of the good bits of head, came down the tree, and moved hesitantly past the cub. There was an intimidating growl from his side, but it seemed to have the reverse effect, and made the cub more curious – the type of curiosity that kills cats. He stopped that game short, very quickly.
The cub wasted no time in getting up the tree and inspecting the remains. She chewed on the head, gnawing at it for a few minutes. The male, in the mean time, had made his way over to where the female was now resting on the termite mound. She approached gingerly, snarling as he walked by – he did not take much notice. The males are almost twice the size of the females, and being solitary, doesn’t allow for an actual size comparison very often. When they do meet up in unusual circumstances, it is always impressive to see the bulk of the males.
He took only a few minutes to find the rest of the kudu, and was up the tree in a shot. Not wanting to share the rest of his ‘hard earned’ find, he took it and leapt, (I must add at this point that I am furious I missed the shot, and must throw a congrats out to my guest who did nail it), landing more than three meters away from the base of the tree! It was a blur of spots and kudu flying through the air – amazing to see!
He dragged away what remained of the kudu, aiming for the dry river bed nearby. Being the alpha male he is, he didn’t pay any attention to the female and her cub following his every move. She had worked hard to bring down such a large meal, and wasn’t done yet. They followed him until he had stashed the kill up in a new tree, this time a large knobthorn tree, and waited for him to come back down. He descended the tree, still oblivious to his entourage, and started bathing himself, (perhaps in pride).
The cub, being a cub – and lacking tact, was up the tree in no time – and spent no time up the tree, because the very first thing she did, was drop the kill out the tree, alerting the male to the would be ‘thieves’. He spun around, leaving his bath still hot, and chased after the mother and cub, letting them know all about his position on the immediate food chain – right up at the top.
He picked up his kill and went into a thicket, where he continued his bath, lying on top of the kudu.
To top it all off, this all happened in brilliant morning light!

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