Recently, photographer Dana Allen and I found Legadema the leopard with the kill of a young red lechwe below a knob thorn tree.
Other guides out on drive told us that three young male lions from the Mporota Pride were moving in her direction. Suddenly, alerted by senses we couldn’t conceive, she leapt up and shot up a nearby tree, as the lions arrived to witness only a blur of movement.
Shortly thereafter, the lions moved off, and Legadema, thinking the coast was clear, came down the tree and moved towards her kill.
Legadema began to feed rapidly, all the while pausing to scan the surrounding forest for the return of the lions. Her vigilance paid off. As a lion appeared once more in the near distance, she took the carcass in her mouth and in an incredible display of strength and agility, climbed a thorn-studded, vertical branch even higher up in the tree.
Moments later the lions arrived, and in a frenzy of thwarted blood-lust and crazed with hunger, one of them lunged at the trunk and managed to clamber up to the horizontal branch where Legadema had been just moments before.
With the leopard hissing vehemently at him from above, the lion considered his position, which was about four metres from the ground! He shuffled awkwardly around on the branch for a few minutes, trying to figure out his next move – it was futile trying to reach Legadema – she was way to high up now, and the only way he had open to him was down.
Eventually, after a lot of careful maneuvering, he managed to clamber an undignified retreat back down the tree to where his brothers waited.
When we left them after about half an hour, they were sprawled at the base, resting off their efforts, while Legadema continued to feed and snooze in the safety of her eyrie above.