Written by Rebecca Phillips, manager at Mdonya Old River Camp in Ruaha.
Ruaha National Park in Southern Tanzania is well known for its diverse landscapes, big elephant population and high density of predators. An estimated 10% of Africa’s lion population resides here providing the highest density of lions anywhere in Africa. Leopards are also present in comparable numbers to those found in places such as South Luangwa National Park. Read about this incredible experience on safari with Adventure Camps Tanzania.
Having such a high number of predators has resulted in major competition between the species for territories and prey. Around Mdonya Old River Camp there have been some unusual sightings of the aftermath of when lions and leopards clash.
In August 2015 a big male leopard was spotted in a tree less than a kilometre away from camp. To the surprise of the guides they saw that he had killed and was eating a little lion cub. Only a few weeks later retaliation was made as an old injured lion was seen eating a leopard. Just recently another leopard fell victim to a fight with lions.
A great ruckus was being caused by baboons and upon investigating the source of the commotion the staff of Mdonya Camp noticed an injured leopard lying on the road which leads to camp. The female leopard was surrounded by baboons who were harassing her and causing her a lot of distress. The leopard’s back legs were paralysed and she dragged herself across the road and in to the shade of the ditch. The local wildlife vet was called and while waiting for him to arrive the leopard was kept under observation.
For about two hours the leopard continued to fight off the baboons and anything else that approached her, showing incredible perseverance and bravery as she fought through her pain, not giving up.
At last the vets arrived and demonstrated experience and expertise as they prepared the tranquilliser and set an area for examining the leopard under the shade of a tree. A clear shot was taken and the dart hit its mark. Even then the leopard used the last of her strength to protect herself. As the drug started to take effect she laid back down in the shade and went to sleep.
The medical examination then started and big puncture wounds were revealed across her sides showing the impact of her fight with the lion. Her spine and legs were not broken but damage had been done to her nervous system. One wound, older than the others, had maggots in it. Her gums were pale showing that she had not managed to eat in a while. The prognosis was not good. The vet took her back to his office for a more in depth examination but sadly in the end the decision was made that the best thing for the leopard was to put her down. The leopard’s fighting spirit and determination not to give up was astonishing to witness.
NB: this leopard was in a state of deep distress so although we kept a watch over her we did not antagonise or provoke her further to get these images and we kept at a distance that she tolerated.