The Camp Pan male. Possibly one of the most powerful leopards ever encountered. We have seen him hunting young giraffe. We have witnessed him aggressively hunting down other large male leopard, and sinking his teeth into them. But we were not prepared for what we saw this morning.
We found the large herd of over four hundred buffalo on Sparta-Ravenscourt, steadily making their way up from the river and onto the open savannahs. It was the last place we were expecting to find a leopard… and then there he was… the Camp Pan male. He looked focused, like he was in hunting mode. At first we suspected he was using the herd for cover, using their noise as a distraction, and as a means to get closer to some of the impala herds not worried about the approach of the buffalo. But it was not impala he was after. He had set his sights on something bigger. Young buffalo.
There were no small calves in the herd, but that didn’t seem to bother him to much. Neither did the four hundred plus adult buffalo guarding the calves; something many lion prides find too intimidating. We watched him follow the herd for hours, and it was only after game drive when a few of us rangers returned to watch him mid-day, that we saw his tactics: hit and run. He launched onto a young buffalo, trying to inflict as much damage as possible before the adults were on him and he had to flee to the safety of the tree, the angry buffalo hitting the tree and trying in vain to bash him out and kill him.
It reminded me of the elephant hunting lions of the Savuti, perhaps a challenge no more remarkable. The injured young buffalo took refuge in the centre of the herd, while the adults kept the big leopard at bay. He continued to follow the herd for the rest of the day, and we do not know whether he had success in the darkness or not.