Leopard Night

03rd December 2012
I took a pro photographer out on a drive the other day and we found a leopard cub very early in the drive. He seemed very relaxed so we decided that we would try to spend the rest of the drive with him if he hung around.

We know this cub, and we know that he's still fairly dependent on his mother for food, although he will certainly be killing small prey on his own too. In this case, he was well fed and seemed to be bored more than anything else. He had no intention of hunting and as a youngster had no territorial duties to perform, so he just moved around the area sniffing bushes for scents. At one point he became very interested in a particular bush and repeatedly scented the leaves. We suspected that this bush is a regular scent-marking point for the resident male leopard who we see in that area. We think that the male is this cub's father, but we never saw the mother mating, so we can't be sure.

After he'd finished with the bush, he went for a drink, then climbed a tree where he wandered around in the branches for a while, showing off his agility!

Eventually, he came down and disappeared into the bush.

While we were waiting for him to show up again, I heard the distant call of a bigger leopard which I assumed to be the male. We went in search of him and found him soon after. He doubled-back when he saw us and headed towards where the cub had been. We followed to find out if there would be any aggression between the two, but the cub had (wisely) disappeared by the time the big male arrived. Interestingly a number of hyaenas had congregated near where the cub had been (if there was a kill nearby, we hadn't been able to find it) and the large male leopard ran right into them. Thinking that he would simply ignore the hyaenas, as I have seen leopards do so many times before, I was surprised to see him snarl and then run straight up the trunk of a nearby tree! Soon the hyaenas realised that he had nothing that they wanted, and moved off. The male came down very rapidly and disappeared.

We moved on, wondering where the cub had gone, and found him slinking along the bottom of a gully nearby with several hyaenas following closely behind. He was clearly disturbed by the hyaenas so we kept well back and watched as they chased him up a tree as well!

It's not that common to see leopards and hyaenas interacting, so to see it on two occasions in one night was interesting.

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