Leopard and porcupine

Sabi Sand | April 2017

Morning game drives are always unpredictable and very exciting; the eighth of April was by no means any different. It involved a lot of fresh leopard tracks and male lion tracks as reminders to just how much activity happened when we were asleep.

Nothing materialised out of all the tracks though; a lot of trackers got dropped off on different roads and locations to try and locate any of these beautiful big cats, but all was to no avail, as if these super-predators were all out to prove a point… that they are in control of their kingdom!

My team of guests and I decided we needed a refreshment break; there’s nothing like a cup of coffee in the bush with birds singing different tunes all around.

Back on the road and ready to carry on with our hunt for the leopard, we received an update on the radio that a male leopard had been located and was hunting a porcupine! That sounded wrong, and if true, dangerous for the leopard, because the quills of porcupines are known to have caused misery, and in some cases even a slow death, to a lot of predators.

Nonetheless, the news was good and exciting that we were possibly going to see a leopard – and a leopard hunting, for that matter!

When we got to the sighting, there was not much to see but a leopard’s tail sticking out of a burrow on the side of a termite mound. We could hear growling coming from the mound. After a few seconds the leopard came out and looked around and went down again; again the growling started, which sounded like two animals having a kind of a disagreement in the termite mound.

We were getting educated on how porcupines were hunted and we were waiting to see how things were going to work out for the leopard and the porcupine.

The next thing all the growling stopped and a porcupine shot out of the hole on the other side of where the leopard was positioned, and a second later the leopard followed, but he had a dark object in his mouth which did not resemble a porcupine at all. He dropped the thing in long grass and went to sit a short distance away, before he began to groom his dusty coat for a minute or two, and then went back to his object which turned out to be a baby porcupine.

The feeding took all of maybe three bites and he was done, and as he turned to leave I could not help but notice that actually he had one porcupine quill sticking out under his scrotum, a small price he paid for his miniature meal! My guess is that he has done it before, because a lot of inexperienced hunters end up with half the porcupine’s quills all over their body.