Cyberdiary – 26 September 2012

Leopard acrobatics with a dead warthog piglet by Andrei Snyman

Leopard acrobatics with a dead warthog piglet by Andrei Snyman

The past week at Mashatu delivered some amazing wildlife scenes, that unfolded before the very eyes of our guests. The camps have been busy, and listening to the stories around the campfire at dinner in the evenings, was a testament to just how productive the game drives were.

During an afternoon game drive, we found a young male leopard lying in a drainage line. On the bank above the leopard, a herd of impala was walking towards a nearby Mashatu tree. These trees are a critical food source during winter, since they are evergreen trees that produce small fruits that baboons love to eat. While feeding on the fruit, baboons tend to drop quite a lot on the ground, where impala can then have access to it. It’s at these ‘feeding sites’ that leopards have become well known to stalk and ambush unwary impala.

Unfortunately for our leopard, he didn’t succeed in catching an impala and we continued to follow the young male as he tried his luck with Francolin, and a colony of Banded mongooses. He didn’t seem to be that desperate for food, since he had made an impala kill just a few days before, so he never really followed through with any of his attempts.

The male leopard leaps in the air as he plays with the warthog piglet carcass by Andrei Snyman

The male leopard leaps in the air as he plays with the warthog piglet carcass by Andrei Snyman

The male then walked towards what we thought was an abandoned aardvark hole. Much to our surprise, the leopard suddenly started digging, and in a blink of an eye, out came a warthog piglet!

I doubt whether the piglet was alive when the leopard pulled it out, since there was no squeal nor sound made by it. What followed next was truly amazing. Instead of quickly taking the kill up a tree, as most leopards would do in an area populated by lions and spotted hyenas, the male started playing with the piglet like a house-cat would play with a sock! The acrobatics displayed by this super-agile predator made for some spectacular photography. He never really seem to get tired, and after nearly 30 to 40 minutes of playing, he finally dragged the carcass up a nearby tree – still playing with it in the tree! It was as if the young  male couldn’t believe his luck at getting this ‘little surprise’, and his excitement got the better of him.

The leopard 'plays' with his prey by Andrei Snyman
The leopard ‘plays’ with his prey by Andrei Snyman

Although this type of behaviour is common among young cats, you hardly see it – if ever – from a large adult male leopard. All the jumping and playing is a high-energy expense for a cat, and although a young male doesn’t have his own hard-fought territory to defend and patrol just yet (unlike territorial males), he has the leisure to play with his food, and in so doing, hone his hunting skills. The act of patrolling territory borders, and defending territory against other males, as well as hunting and looking for potential mates, requires a whole lot of energy and the management thereof.

The agility of the young male leopard was awe inspiring to watch by Andrei Snyman

The agility of the young male leopard was awe inspiring to watch by Andrei Snyman

Being witness to this spectacle was truly amazing!

Visit our Facebook album to see more photos.

See you out there,

Andrei

 

 



One Response to “ “Cyberdiary – 26 September 2012”

  1. Sandra Pauw says:

    Amazing photos …. loved the story behind the piglet and leopard.

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