At the beginning of August we found a dead elephant at the water’s edge. Left alone for the first day, a leopard appeared during the evening to try and take the first bite. Next thing hyaenas and vultures, lions and even wild dogs were witnessed feeding on the deceased animal. This final observation was of particular interest because wild dogs are known to act as apex predators and not as scavengers. There is a definite risk involved in eating from such a prey because lions, leopards and even crocodiles will almost definitely be in the same vicinity. Nevertheless we saw the wild dogs feed here on three separate occasions.
Spare a thought for the Brazilian guests who wanted to see a kill and then got more than they bargained for. Certain safari animals are more emotive than others - elephant, giraffe, or hippo for example and especially their young. The coalition of two male lions and one lioness had apparently found an adult female hippo who had died from natural causes and started to feast on her. Enter the now-orphaned hippo youngster who is confused and grieving for its mother. The lions proceeded to eat the young hippo while it was still alive. Not the best start (or end) to the day, perhaps, but this is a good example of how real it gets out here. Botswana is often heralded as the safari destination with the purest, and wildest, experience. I think this cold and somewhat gruesome interaction aptly illustrates this point.
Visitors to the Linyanti camps in July and August might have realistic expectations of seeing either hyaena with puppies or wild dog denning. One interesting sighting occurred when lions threatened the wild dog puppies and these were defended not only by the wild dog adults but also by hyaenas who showed up in the nick of time.
August, like July, has been very good for sightings and these have included cheetah, which is a very good sign because these cats haven’t been seen regularly here since the Savute Channel waters came back in 2008. At the moment they seem to be passing through, but perhaps it won’t be long before they become resident again.
Being a leopard isn’t always easy; hunting alone, calculating the risks involved and a warthog is no easy meal. One early morning drive, we came across a female that had hidden herself carefully, watching for the warthogs to get up and leave their burrow. The first warthog out of the hole should have been breakfast but for a slight split-second misfire on the leopard's leap. The next thing the guests knew was an explosion of dust, fur and squealing. Not disheartened and still hungry the leopard was brave enough to venture into the burrow - risking injury from any warthog defender's tusks – however he came back up empty handed.
Photographs by Ona Basimane and Moses Gunikwe