Guests arriving at Shinde’s airstrip this morning received an unexpected welcome when their guide, Bee, took them directly to investigate an “interesting sound” he had heard before the plane had landed. The guides awaiting the incoming flight had chased a small herd of tsebe from the landing strip, only to hear a blood-curdling cry from the direction in which the tsebe had headed. On arrival, Bee was able to rush the guests straight to a fantastic sighting of a huge male leopard with a freshly killed young tsebe.
Tsebes would not usually be the preferred prey of leopard, not only because they are renowned as Africa’s fastest antelope, but also because they are too large for a leopard to carry up a tree, where they like to secure their prey from lions, hyenas and other scavengers. For this reason leopard would usually hunt smaller antelope such as impala or lechwe.
It is also unusual for a leopard to kill during the day, as they prefer to stalk their prey under cover of darkness. However, in this case the startled tsebe had been chased literally into the jaws of this leopard, who was probably enjoying an afternoon nap in the shade of a tree, but was not going to pass up the opportunity of an easy meal.
When the guests first arrived, the leopard was only just starting to open up the tsebe. They returned an hour later on the afternoon game drive to find he had opened the carcass and was enjoying his meal. They also witnessed him removing the stomach contents in an attempt to make the carcass light enough to move.
Once he had eaten his fill, the leopard attempted to cover the carcass with grass, and settled down to rest, panting heavily. Over the course of the next couple of days, guests revisited the site of the kill and found the carcass moved to a new position about 20 metres away. The stomach contents have a distinctive smell which attracts scavengers, so these had been left behind. Although the carcass was too big even for a leopard this size to take up a tree, amazingly he managed to hang onto his kill until it was entirely eaten. Clearly the lions and hyenas in the area were not fully ‘on the ball’!
Words and images courtesy of Dawn Perkins.