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Leopards and Hyena Battle It Out

Zambia
Jul 17 2012 Written by: Brad Horn

I have just returned from a safari to Zambia with a wonderful family from the US. This is their fifth trip with Epic and fourth safari with us to Africa. We centred this trip on Zambia’s two iconic national parks; the Lower Zambezi and the South Luangwa National Parks. This made for wonderful variety and with great diversity of habitats, game and experiences. .

One of the focuses of this trip was walking and we enjoyed some monumental days. Paralleling the Luangwa River over a couple of days was very memorable. Lots and lots of hippos. On one occasion we came across a pod of well over a hundred. The cacophony of noise made by the hippo at our approach was deafening.

An undoubted highlight of the safari was the fact we encountered 9 leopard in an 8 night trip. On the last morning in South Luangwa we experienced some great predator interaction. On our way to the airstrip, we chanced upon a large male leopard crossing a floodplain. This guy was moving briskly and not sauntering like leopard’s tend to do. He was clearly on a mission. We proceeded to follow him for the next 20 minutes or so as he cut across islands and floodplains. As he came through the last island we noticed a female leopard on the floodplain. She had just killed an impala but had been dispossesses by a hyena. The female leopard was a picture of uncertainty. Enter the male leopard. We now understood his mission. How he cottoned onto what had transpired is amazing. He didn’t hesitate and made a bee-line straight for the hyena. He promptly stole the kill from it, turning and running to the edge of the island where he scampered up a sycamore fig.

The hyena skulked around below, its face red with impala blood. It then moved off at which point the female leopard came to the tree. It gazed up the tree for a short while before moving off. No doubt she realised that all her hard work had amounted to nothing. The male leopard then proceeded down with the kill in its mouth and started moving deeper into the island. As it was doing so the hyena came back and forced the male to beat a hasty retreat up another tree. Meanwhile back at the fig the female leopard returned and she too was forced up the tree by the roving hyena. This was a wonderful culmination to the safari. The Luangwa Valley is revered for its leopard viewing and certainly did not disappoint. I hope you enjoy these video highlights.