The Ultimate Kill
Corinne Kendall— 21 March 2011 — in East Africa Project Share
All the tourists had been seeing leopards but with my focus on vultures and their nesting trees I hadn’t had many opportunities to enjoy the cats and I was beginning to get jealous. Today we came upon a beautiful, though small, leopard non-chalantly cleaning itself on a small mound in broad daylight. After a good wash, it was time for a good meal and the leopard immediately went into stalking posture as it moved through the tall grass around the vehicles. As it crossed the road it did a full roll (as I had seen another leopard do last year) and continued the hunt. Moving into the tall grass, it found a comfortable spot and decided to wait. Prey options abounded with a small ground of topi lying down in the distance, a small family of waterbuck walking past near by, and a young giraffe stumbling around about 200 meters from its unconcerned mother. The leopard just waited though, recognizing that with the road nearby something would pass on its own. And so it did. Two topi walked along the open path and were totally unaware until they got within about 50 meters of the leopard. When one of them spotted the spotted cat it began leaping and huffing and the two antelope raced off at speed.
So the leopard changed its strategy, crossing the road once more and returning to the small wooded waterway where it had been sunning previously. As it crept into the dense brush, I noticed a group of warthogs hanging out on the other side so we crossed over for closer inspection. Though the leopard had vanished in the brush, the intentions had been clear and I tensed as the mother warthog made the ill-advised choice to take her three youngsters into the woods. With no warning, the leopard leapt for a pig and the three survivors raced off in a cloud of dust, tails and hair raised in alarm.
Now that the hunt was over we rushed forward to see the action more closely. The leopard lay perfectly still, warthog clenched in her jaws and paws wrapped around her prey. The warthog twitched hopelessly in the final spasms of life. When the warthog stopped moving, the leopard started dragging it. The warthog, though not full grown, was still nearly two-thirds the size of the leopard. She struggled to get her feet around the hefty body as she moved her prey to safety back into the dense brush. When it seemed secure, she lay down for a good nap, panting deeply from the exertion.
We left her to eat in peace but returned several hours later to find the warthog carcass carefully stashed in a crevice along the waterway with the leopard still sitting by eating the intestines.
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