Leopards are resourceful animals. Whilst on a game drive out of Chitabe Camp, in the Okavango, we spent time following a hungry male leopard. During the course of one morning he tried hunting a variety of other creatures. A herd of impala were too watchful, and caught sight of him approaching. They alarmed, and scattered. Next he tried to catch some dwarf mongooses, again without success. The mongooses were too wary, and they managed to take shelter inside a hollow tree stump. The leopard tried to claw his way in but the fallen tree was too tough. After that he chased some tree squirrels, but they kept moving very quickly around the tree trunk, always staying on the side opposite the leopard. Some red-billed francolins began making alarm calls in the distance, and the male leopard pricked up his ears at the sound.
The alarm calls signaled the presence of another predator, something that was worrying the francolins. We followed, at a good distance, as the leopard very carefully made his way closer. He began to stalk some unseen quarry. The leopard froze, and then pounced. It took us some moments to drive close enough to be able to see what the leopard had captured. We were quite startled to see that he had captured an African wild cat. He suffocated the smaller cat quickly, and quietly, and set about plucking the fur from its body.
We were surprised once again when the leopard walked off, leaving the body of the wild cat lying under a bush. The leopard returned some hours later, and spent the evening feeding contentedly on his unfortunate victim.
Amongst Africa’s big cats, leopards seem to prey on a wider range and variety of creatures than any of their relatives. This was the first time I had seen a leopard take a wild cat as prey. Some other prey items that we have recorded them eating in northern Botswana include jackals, porcupine, lion cubs, guineafowl, vultures and catfish.