This story is told by Lorenza Corrias, a 10-day guest at Kaingo and Mwamba in late July, early August 2012. Lorenza was part of a small group led by Brent Harris, from Primal Pathways, and guide at Kaingo and Mwamba.
Thank you Lorenza for sharing this story and your pictures!
August 5th, 2012:
We are sitting in Mwamba hide, a couple of meters from the camp, hiding and observing nature and the animals that don’t notice us; undisturbed, continuing their daily life. Below the hide’s look-out, there is a small pool of water where birds drink and take a bath. Once clean, they rest on the branches to dry themselves. At about 10.35, I suddenly see something running furtively down the steep river bank. At first sight it seems to me a lioness. I call Brent to attention, and point out the animal which he identifies immediately as a leopard. In the meantime, Elaine hears strong sounds of an animal in agony. Excited and trembling, we leave the hide almost running, head to the car, and drive in the direction of the action.
Just as we arrive, we find the leopard bent over an impala carcass, but she runs away and hides behind some trunks of a dead tree next to to a water hole. Through the binoculars we observe the leopard, a female, is completely wet.
We infer that the impala was killed as it was drinking, dragged down into the water, and drowned. It is now 11 o’clock, and the leopard, after what seems an endless time under the burning sun, moves and comes close to the water to drink. She starts to drink very carefully and circumspect, always keeping an eye on us. After few minutes she stands and slowly walks close to the prey, not detaching her eyes off us. It’s 11.02 and the leopard, in less than a fraction of second, launches into a furious charge against us to ensure we’re not a threat for her prey! These are unique and unforgettable moments. I’m looking at her through the lens yet I’m paralyzed and unable to take a photo. We’re all nervous and afraid, but when the leopard realizes that nothing is moving, she stops sharply, sniffing the air in our direction. Brent assures Elaine that the leopard will smell the vehicle and its fuel and know we are not a threat.
Viewing us with suspect and circumspect, she slowly returns to the impala and begins the task of dragging it toward a secure place where she can dine. The impala is heavy and the leopard slim and slender, but with extraordinary strength. Slowly, stopping every few seconds to retrieve the force, the cat drags the prey along the dry riverbed until she finds an adequate place to pull up the impala to take it on the other side of the river bank. It’s a difficult rise, a steep slope, and the leopard stops many times to rest and catch her breath. Unfortunately, the carcass slips into a crevice between a tree’s roots and she can’t lift it out. The leopard stops and begins to pinch the impala skin, almost as if to test its elasticity. Brent explains that it’s unusual behaviour because normally, these cats start to eat the rump of the kill first. After few minutes, as predicted, the leopard begins to rip the flesh of the rump, trying to cut the tale and to do a breach and proceed to eat. However, after creating a hole big enough, the cat begins to pull out the bowels of the impala through the opening, spreading them on the ground. Probably feeling it’s unsafe to consume the food in the open, lest some hyenas surprise her, emptying the animal of its bowels makes it lighter to carry, and so she continues to drag the carcass up the shore until, after a lot of effort, she succeeds in pulling it up and stashes it in the thicket. We can’t believe we are witnessing something so raw and natural. And to grasp the power of this fairly small cat in her determination to hide her kill instills awe and respect in us all.
Later, we return to the area and pick our way across the riverbed in the vehicle to find the carcass hidden in a bush, partially eaten, but the leopard is nowhere to be seen. The next day we discover she had gone to retrieve her cub, and revered the hard work she did, how she never gave up so she could feed her cub. We are humbled by this beautiful yet dangerous creature and the real cycle of nature in its natural environment. It’s an experience we’ll never forget.