Sometimes we are fortunate enough to find a leopard without tracking its footprints and sometimes we don’t find this beautiful cat at all – even though we search high and low. I have on occasion, found myself getting to the point where I am so focused looking for them, that everything I see looks like a leopard – leopard rock, leopard bush – but alas, no actual leopard, just my eyes playing tricks on me! On one game drive luck was in our favour. We weren’t looking for leopard, in fact it was the first game drive of my new guests, so we decided to just drive around and see what we could find. We saw some general game like impala and zebra and a big herd of buffalo.
It was only our first 30 minutes into the game drive when we spotted a mother warthog and her two babies feeding. While watching them, one of my guests said, “Leopard!” At first I thought that maybe he wasn’t sure, but as I looked to the other side of my vehicle, there it was – hiding barely visible in the bush – hunting the warthog. We all kept quiet as we watched the leopard stalk. As soon as the warthog looked in the other direction, the leopard would inch closer and closer. At one point the leopard was about five meters away from the warthogs and we were sure that we were going to see a kill. Suddenly we just saw dust and the leopard running, but the cat missed a perfect opportunity. Warthogs are built with relatively long legs that allow them to reach speeds of more than 30 miles per hour, which they need, being a favourite prey for many predators, including lions, hyenas, cheetahs and even some of the bigger eagles. Escaping predators can be somewhat challenging for these pigs. That said, when cornered, warthogs are willing to put up a fight, making use of sharp lower canine teeth – that resemble tall, piercing tusks – as weapons.
We watched our leopard walk away and cross the road just in front of us. We were all so excited after witnessing the attempted hunt. What a perfect and memorable way to start a game drive!
Written by: Albert Gouws