Following my first year of college, as a family, we had decided to take our first expedition out of the country and go on a safari tour of the sub Sahara desert in Africa. During this expedition, our goal was to see some big cats and hopefully catch sight of some in the midst of a hunt. My mother and father had not been domestic cat fans in their life, but they certainly had an admiration for the big cats of Africa. After watching a lot of Planet Earth after I left for college, they seemed to really want to see some cats on the hunt, and so we traveled to Africa and commenced on our expedition.
The first few days on our tour, we primarily only saw glimpses of the big cats, but saw a ton of the ungulates that roamed and grazed the plains of Africa. We saw rhinos, zebras, and tons of deer like creatures. This was exciting in and of itself since we had only seen these breeds of animals in the zoo, and it was a different experience seeing them in herds as wild animals.
As night came about, our safari guides informed us that this was when the lions usually would hunt around these territories, and we had an amazing opportunity to catch a pride of lions feeding on two zebras that they had captured. I thought this would be the highlight of the trip, I was dead wrong.
The following day, we had the amazing luxury of having a television crew join us on the expedition. With just my mother, brother, father and I on the jeep with a film crew and 2 seemingly safari spotting experts, I had an inkling we would see some interesting sights that day.
The camera crew informed us they had gotten word that there was a spot nearby where cheetahs, leopards, and a lion pride were all competing for kills and were frequently coming across each other. We learned this was uncommon, but not necessarily unheard of. Excitement stirred among the vehicles that this was the chance for us to see 3 of the big cats hunting in Africa.
As we arrived near the site, we had a spotted a group of cheetahs. The safari guides told us these were three brothers, who had yet to become fully grown adults. Most big cats hunt alone, but these brothers formed a bond as young cats and had started hunting together successfully. We saw the 3 cats spot a herd of these deer like animals, and begin sneaking upon them slowly. A silent sense of excitement was among the jeep, and we slowly started to move in on the herd knowing that’s where the cheetahs would likely be headed next.
The cheetahs were hiding among the overgrown grasses and sneaking upon the deer trying to pinpoint the weakest among the group for whom they would soon chase after. All of a sudden, the three brothers sprung to their feet and used their animal record breaking speed to swiftly target one particular deer which they took down quite easily in fact. It seemed from the beginning of the chase to take-down took maybe 3 seconds at the most. The problem was, the inexperienced hunting skills of the cheetahs betrayed them, and none of them bit the neck to kill the deer swiftly enough. Blood was pouring out the back of the deer before one of the brothers finally bit the neck, but not after the cries of the deer and the smell of blood permeated across the desert landscape. The three cheetahs knew they didn’t have much time and quickly started to take a few bites out of the fallen ungulate, but they didn’t get to enjoy it for too long.
Springing out of the bushes, a nearby leopard had heard the cries of the deer and come to see if it could steal the kill. It rushed the site of the cheetahs, and the cheetah’s natural flight instincts took over and they ran away from their kill allowing the leopard to take over the feast.
Leopards are superb climbers, and have a very strong jaw. This leopard located a nearby tree, and took the deer up with it into the high canopy of the tree to enjoy the meal it had just taken. Knowing that it couldn’t have been the only predator to hear the cries of the fallen deer, it quickly began eating the deer while it had the chance.
At this point, we couldn’t believe our eyes what we had just witnessed, and the camera crew was capturing it all. We approached the tree and began admiring the leopard as it was eating high on branches that surprisingly supported it along with the deer.
As the leopard was feasting, my brother silently shook me, and pointed to the right of where I was originally looking, and to my disbelief, a pride of lions were nearby watching this leopard. There must have been around 10 lions who have come to see what the commotion was and smelled blood signaling food. Lions commonly will steal food from other predators accounting for many of their meals. As they approached the tree and spotted the leopard with the kill, they hoped they could reach her and scare the kill away from her.
The lions began circling under the tree, and the leopard knowing he didn’t want to mess with and get into a confrontation with the lions left his kill on the branches and moved to even skinnier branches knowing that the lions were too big to climb on. Divided from the kill, one of the male lions scaled the tree in an attempt to go take the kill for the pride. He was an adept climber, but the branches were just too small and he ended up giving up and climbed down the tree.
While the leopard sill remained and watched the lions below, a female lioness made her attempts at climbing the tree to take the kill. She was much smaller than the big male lion that had just climbed the tree, but even she was too big for the skinny branches that kill lie on, and much too big for the branches that the leopard was sitting on. Disappointed, the lion pride gave up, and walked away without being able to steal the meal from the leopard.
The leopard being very satisfied with himself, approached his stolen kill again and began to smugly feast on it again while the lion pride left the location to go find food for themselves. They probably knew each other very well, and believed that this wouldn’t be the end of the chapter between them. But, for the time being, the leopard had arises victorious over the three cheetahs and pride of lions. The lone leopard wiggled his way into keeping the kill over nearly 15 other cats by being more cunning, and have greater animal abilities for this particular meal than the other cats of the desert.
We all sat silently in shock of the ordeal we had just witnessed over nearly an hour span. Nobody on the jeep claimed to have ever seen such a battle occur between three different species of these big cats over one kill. We all sat at the location for a few hours admiring the leopard for what he had done, speechless. Next, we had only hoped for a couple of hyena canines to come about, for which they never did. Nonetheless, it was truly an amazing experience between all of these big cats, and one that I, my family, the safari guides, the camera crew, and their audience will likely never forget.