The Power of the Pack

I was on a game drive out of Chitabe camp when we came across an intriguing interaction that took place between the local wild dog pack and their pups, and a young female leopard.

The dogs had killed an impala, and were busy feeding on the carcass, with most of the meat already having been consumed.  Chitabe’s wild dog pack have been very successful in the past few seasons, and are running at twenty adults strong.  They were being extra cautious and protective of their seven pups.  When the young female leopard, who was very hungry indeed, investigated the commotion she was seen by the vigilant dogs, and immediately they set off after her.  The young leopard had not eaten for several days, and was a little desperate to get herself some food, any way that she could.  Leopards have been known to kill and feed on wild dog pups, as well as solitary adults, and there is no love lost between the two species. This particular leopard was not after the dogs or their pups, but was intending to get some of the impala they had killed for herself.

With the dogs right on her tail, the leopard dashed up the closest tree, which was not particularly robust, nor very high, although it was enough to keep her safe from the dogs.  Several dogs milled around the base of the tree, keeping her there, whilst the rest finished off the impala.  As it got warmer the dogs began to lose interest and wandered off, only to return at speed when the leopard tried to come down the tree.  After more than an hour the dogs moved into the shade some distance away, and the leopard was free to come down.  Instead of running away, the bold young leopard stealthily approached the bones and skin of the impala carcass, and then swiftly grabbed the prize and raced back up the tree, struggling with the string of hanging bones and skin.  The dogs had moved off just far enough to have no concern about the cat, who now enjoyed feeding on the leftovers.

A female leopard is no match for a wild dog pack, especially one as large as this pack, but the cats ability to climb trees allowed her to successfully scavenge off the dogs with little risk to herself.  That evening the dogs moved away from the area, leaving the leopard and the leftovers overhead in the tree.

About Grant Atkinson

Growing up on South Africa’s pristine and picturesque Wild Coast fuelled Grant Atkinson ’s interest in nature and photography , skills he hones daily as a field guide for Wilderness Safaris in northern Botswana. Having travelled widely across southern Africa as well as to some of the world’s top wild places (the Galápagos Islands and Alaska among them), Grant’s exquisite images and profound observations are a fitting showcase for the best of Botswana’s wildlife.
  • Ms Pintueli Gajjar

    Wow …. what an awesome moment to witness. Must say, you are very lucky and yes, as you rightly say, the leopard is no match for a pack of wild dogs. I have been witness to how quick and ravenous they can be … saw a fawn being stripped to bones in 7 minutes flat just 12 feet away from our Gypsy in Nagzira, a wildlife park in India! You caught the moment with awesome clarity. Thanks for sharing!

  • James Weis

    Wow Grant – what an awesome sighting and terrific images as well!!!

    Great job and a very interesting read too… wish I had seen this.


  • Lou Buonomo

    Very cool stuff !! Well documented.