Dutch and Bee, our guides at Khwai Tented Camp, had tracked and found a pride of lions. 8 Lions in total, 1 male, 4 females and 3 cubs. Whilst enjoying this special sighting with the guests, the guides noticed the behavior of one of the female lions was unusual and she kept looking down on the ground. After discussing this with Dutch, the guides decided to take a closer look as they were curious as to whether perhaps there was a snake in the grass. As they drove closer to the lions they saw something lying in the grass, it was a leopard! It looked as though it was dead, it must have been a territorial fight. Lions and leopards hunt in the same area for the same prey and as such are competitors for survival.
As the guests were watching this spectacle the ear of the leopard started twitching… then it moved it’s head, it was alive! Whilst it had a few wounds on it’s side but no major bite marks, it was acting submissively to escape being killed by the lions. The leopard remained in its submissive position for about 20 minutes and when the lions had appear to have lost interest and were no longer looking, it saw its opportunity to escape and ran for it’s life. The lions pursued the leopard but it managed to find a tree close by and quickly escaped to the upper most branches. The tree was fairly small and the lions attempted to follow the leopard up the tree but due its size they kept falling out. After about 5 minutes they gave up but watched in awe as the younger cubs, intrigued by the action, decided to see if they could climb the tree. Again they were unsuccessful so the pride circled the tree and lay beneath it. The leopard was up the tree for about half an hour and then it moved, as it moved the branch snapped and the leopard was sent once again running for its life.
Finding a sturdier tree, the leopard quickly made its escape, just in time to avoid a lions paw. The lions tried to climb the tree but again were once again too heavy and they eventually gave up and went to lie down under a distant tree. We could see the leopard was not badly hurt and would survive to hunt again. The leopard remained in the tree for the rest of the day with the lions keeping watch until darkness started to fall and they lost interest and moved away to hunt. This was certainly a special encounter for both our guides and guests and is symbolic of the type of wildlife experiences available in the Khwai Community Area of Botswana.