Postcard Photo Sightings
On a very early and very cold winter’s morning back in June my guests and I headed out from Kapama Buffalo Camp on our morning game drive. Our mission was to find one of the most elusive animals in the African bushveld. Everyone was very quiet at first, huddling together, clutching his or her hot water bottles, trying to escape the fresh chill that only a June winters morning breeze could bring. The Land Cruiser slowly and effortlessly motioned through the bush to begin another day in beautiful Africa.
It wasn’t even twenty minutes into our morning safari when my tracker and I saw a very odd shaped track in the road ahead of us. It was left by something unrecognizable at the time. Neither I, nor my tracker could identify the obscure scene on the ground.
We moved in for closer inspection and further investigation.
That is when we discovered that something had been dragged across the road. While we were deciphering what could have left the tracks, we heard a rustle in the bushes behind us. Suddenly I heard a very excited guest softly sound out – Leopard!!!
All cameras immediately pointed in the animal’s direction, clicking away madly. We were surprised to see that the leopard had an adult male impala clutched in her jaws. She was instinctively dragging her kill to safety amongst a thicket of shrubs and trees not too far from us. She was no doubt trying to hide the carcass from the ever-watchful eyes of vultures.
These birds of prey circle the skies above, and are the first ones to give away the position of a kill to scavengers on the ground like hyena or even possibly Lion. Given the slightest opportunity either of them would try and take the impala for themselves, leaving the leopard empty bellied. Soon we lost sight of the female leopard and her kill amongst the thicket of the dense bush.
I decided to give her a chance to rest, intending to return that afternoon for the day’s second safari, to see what may have transpired while no one was observing her. So we continued on with our morning drive to see what other treasures the bush would present to us on this fine day.
That afternoon as we climbed the cruiser for the sundowner safari, we departed camp with very excited guests, including myself. We were going to investigate the scene that we had left behind earlier that morning hoping for the best result possible.
As soon as we arrived at our destination, my tracker turned and looked at me. We had worked together long enough for me to know what that look meant. We both noticed hyena tracks everywhere. The leopard’s kill had been stolen.
At first we only encountered one hyena. Slowly more scavengers entered the scene. Before long the hyenas were fighting over the scraps of the impala that were left. I scanned the surrounding landscape to see if we could possibly spot the leopard somewhere, but there was no sign of her.
My guests and I were completely pre-occupied with the complex social behaviour of the hyenas that we did not notice what my tracker did. He slowly and deliberately motioned for us to look up.
There, patient and quite, the relaxed leopard casually lay draped over a branch watching the same scavenger escapades below as we were. All of us hoped that at least she had devoured enough of the carcass to satisfy her needs before the hyenas tracked her down and stole her kill.
That days game drive activities and safari served to be very fruitful, giving my excited guests a magnificent story to tell and wonderful memories and perfect “postcard photos” to take back home with them.
Story and photos by :
Danie Greffrath – Buffalo Camp