WITH MY OWN EYES
ONE EYE’S BAD DAY, KRUGER PARK
M y husband Alvin and I spent two weeks in the Kruger in October 2020. We stayed at Letaba for the last three days. We got up early every morning, had coffee and rusks for breakfast, then drove out to see what wonderful things the park had in store for us.
On this particular morning, we turned right outside the camp gate, with plans to drive along the course of the Letaba River. About 2 km further, we came across a beautiful male leopard with only one eye 1 – he was under a mopane tree. Some unsuspecting impala were grazing nearby. The leopard looked relaxed, although he was keeping his one eye on the antelope…
The impalas crossed the road and walked towards the riverbank. We thought we had missed our chance of seeing some action, but just as we were about to leave, the impalas returned and this time two of them dashed past the mopane thicket where One Eye was hiding. 2 The last impala in the line wasn’t paying attention and almost bumped into the big cat.
A cloud of dust went up and he had her! 3 I struggled to steady my camera – a Nikon D7200 with a Sigma 150 – 600 mm lens – but I kept taking photos. I’d never seen anything like this before. Suddenly the action ramped up even further. A spotted hyena appeared and launched an attack on the leopard to steal his catch. 4 We watched as One Eye tried to get his impala back, but the hyena overpowered him every time. 5–7 The leopard retreated and watched from a distance as the hyena tucked into breakfast.
A short while later, another fight broke out. We thought that more hyenas had showed up, but it was actually a second leopard! 8
Where was One Eye? Eventually we spotted him in a tree. 9
We couldn’t believe our eyes – two leopards! The younger male bided his time while the hyena ate its fill, then the hyena picked up the carcass and walked right past the young leopard 10 and disappeared into the bush.
The young leopard walked to where the hyena had been eating and licked at the leftovers. 11 He then followed the hyena.
One Eye was still perched in the tree, out of the danger zone. Or so we thought…
A few big male baboons arrived and climbed
into the tree. They teased the leopard by shaking the branches and making alarm calls. More baboons joined the group and the younger baboons also tried to get a rise out of One Eye. 12 The leopard lay down flat on the branch and we could hear him snarling when the baboons came too close.
About 90 minutes after we’d arrived on the scene, everything finally calmed down. The baboons got bored and moved on, allowing One Eye to climb down and slink off. 13 I’ve never felt so sorry for an animal before! We actually saw him near camp the next day – on the hunt again. I’m glad we did because it put my mind at ease. He was fortunately unharmed after the events of the previous day.