The Hunda Hat-Trick Drive

Nov 20, 2012 |  Conservation & Wildlife
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On Sunday afternoon I went out on game drive with Kambango and his guests. We were going down towards Tubu Corner. A little more than an hour into the drive Kambango stopped to make sure of something he spotted, I too scanned the area with him. I confirmed with him two warthogs – I was satisfied with the identification as it was at least 500 metres into the dried floodplain. Kambango then asked if he could quickly use my binoculars and then he casually said ”there is a leopard behind the warthogs”… we were all laughing at him until he said that he is being serious.

Between the warthogs and us there was a leopard stalking the warthogs. Since none of us have his eagle eyes, we decided to trust his judgment as he started driving to the area and there, lying in the grass was a leopard, not interested in the warthogs anymore but in us and the zebra walking past the back of the vehicle. After having a careful look at this leopard, we realized that she is not one of our resident leopards. Kambango has seen her once before, sometime last year in the same area. She is a large female that we estimate to be around nine years of age. The tops of both ears have been torn off and besides that, not another scar or mark. She was extremely relaxed with us being there and after about five minutes, she decided she was going to walk past us and start scent marking her territory. She walked to the nearest palm thicket and did a thorough scent marking by spraying urine and rubbing her head in the branches. She continued walking until she reached Hunda West, where she stopped, sniffed, and snarled her lips into a Flehmen Grimace (which is how pheromones are analyzed in scent marks). The feline then proceeded to roll over the urine on the ground. She continued with this behavior as she walked through the bush. This indicates that she is replacing another leopards scent marks with her own. After observing this for some time, we decided to leave her.

We were completely content with the sighting that we had, but we heard another leopard call an hour later while watching a troop of baboons preparing to roost on a different part of the island. We drove around the corner and there was the Impala Ridge Female walking towards us. We stopped on the side of the road to let her pass but she had a different idea in mind. She went and rolled around in the grass a mere five metres from the vehicle and then she called…the loud rasping sound travelling through the early evening responded to by the alarm call of three kudu that finally saw her. She then casually disappeared into the vegetation.

Kambango and I were laughing at this… one of the most successful drives we have had (being in the same vehicle) and a great second last drive for the guests. I joked with Kambango that while we are on a roll, we should make it a hat-trick. Fifteen minutes later, Gibson called us on the radio, (as he had finished his mokoro trip a few minutes earlier) and informed us that he had located another leopard – the Lebala Female this time around. We couldn’t help but laugh…a hat trick indeed…but that was not all that Hunda Island had in stall for us, she decided to provide Gibson with a second leopard as well. So in total four leopards on one afternoon drive!

Eloise

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By Eloise Holton

After completing her studies in Conservation and Lodge Management, Eloise moved to the Lowveld where she spent a couple of years guiding and leading walking trails. She now manages Tubu Tree Camp in the Okavango Delta with her husband.

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