That awkward moment

27 03 2012

Sometimes, being the boss doesn’t always pan out the way you thought it would. Out on safari, a young male leopard was going about his business, marking territory and the like. Before I even got settled in the sighting, a larger, more dominant male came running down the trail, calling as he ran. Turns out, this was his territory that the young intruder was brazenly marking as his own. This was a mistake.
The incensed large male gave chase, looking for a fight.
The younger male knew he was taking a chance, and fled. He didn’t run cowering with his tail between his legs – he legged it so quickly he literally disappeared! I had no idea where he went, and neither did the large male!
This seemed to infuriate the territorial male even more, and he moved quickly around the area where he had last seen him, nose to the ground, calling every thirty seconds or so, providing me with some rather different images. He was in the mood for a fight, and didn’t let up. This was almost his downfall…

He was so engaged with the intruder, that he sacrificed his usual stealth and quiet for a very public showing of his alpha male status. These public announcements were not only heard and felt by the long gone male, but also by a lioness, who was now watching the top of leopard world run around in circles.
The situation the large male leopard found himself in now was quite different – he was the one on the receiving end of the pecking order.

The lioness charged in and the cameras clicked solidly. Her running paws kicked up some leaves that got the leopards attention. He looked confused for a split second – his opponent had just grown remarkably quickly! He put two and two together and made a break for the safety of the nearest tree. The lioness, who had the element of surprise coupled with a serious weight advantage, (lioness ±180kg vs. ±100kg leopard) got a little distracted in her charge and seemed to miss the leopards break away. (You need to have a look at the images here, fourth last image). Perhaps she was looking for the other leopard he was ‘fighting’ with, or maybe a food source – either way, he make a clean getaway. She did return shortly afterwards though to make sure he knew who really was the boss!
This was a unique chance to see the top two cats at the same time.

When the lioness left the skirmish, I followed her with a hunch. She came and went alone, and on the same path. Where had she come from, and why was she going back the same way? When she crossed the river, she showed me exactly what was going on. She had been suckling very small cubs! The lioness’ den site was right next to the show grounds of the large male leopard. She had left the cubs, (a little too well hidden for photographs in a hole in the river bank), and made her way to make sure the leopard left the area as soon as he was brave enough to descend the tree. This, I am sure, he did!

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