Written by: Michael Moss
A few years ago I spent a week in the beautiful Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa. I had many remarkable experiences during the trip, however, none were more interesting than an encounter I witnessed between a young male leopard and a hyena.
My ranger, Chris Goodman, was the head ranger at the lodge and he provided me with outstanding photographic opportunities. In the afternoon we came across a small female leopard walking along a road. After following her for a few minutes, she found one of her sons. He was a subadult and was 50% bigger than his mother, but still appeared to rely on her to provide meals. The two of them headed in a different direction, and we followed them for about fifteen minutes until she eventually came across an adult female kudu that she must have killed earlier. Given her small size, it seemed incredible that she could bring the animal down considering that it took her several attempts to even drag it to the shade.
Meanwhile, her son wandered off towards a juvenile male kudu that the mother must have also killed. However, as the leopard approached the kudu, a young male hyena came on the scene. The rest of its clan was at a nearby lion kill but it didn’t give any calls to alert them that there was more food up for grabs. Another male leopard cub also joined the group, but both him and the female decided not to eat but rather watch events unfold.
The male leopard continued to approach the kudu as the hyena started eating. It was definitely upset by the hyena’s presence and hissed many times, but the hyena pretty much ignored it and continued eating while keeping a close eye on the leopard. The leopard realised that the hyena was not planning to move away and decided it was time to share. At times he was within a metre of the hyena and would occasionally look up and hiss at it only to be ignored. The hyena was definitely the more aggressive feeder as the leopard always remained cautious, and neither of the other two leopards made any attempt to join in the feast.
We sat there for well over an hour watching them both dine on the kudu. Darkness was approaching so we eventually had to say farewell to the two unlikely dinner companions, and we left them to finish their meal.