Motswari Blog Volume 28 – Ntima, Ntombi’s boy

Ntima is one of the dominant male leopards in the northern Timbavati. Ntima means black in the local language, because of his black nose. Also, this distinguishes him from his brother, who had a pink nose and therefore he was named Tchukanyana – meaning pink in the local language.

These boys were born around Feb 2013, which makes them around six and a half now. Ntima is definitely bigger than his brother, he’s very relaxed with vehicles, following his Mum’s lead on that front and he is a prolific hunter. Tchukanyana is more temperamental, grumpy and has a habit of dropping kills out of trees by mistake –almost polar opposites in skill you could say yet both stunning cats (obviously!)

On a recent drive, we stopped at a dam to appreciate some blue waxbills flitting around getting water and regrouping on a nearby branch –yes, we had some keen birders on the vehicle! Then as we watched, a lone hyena appeared in the thicket walking slowly, unperturbed by our presence and looking like it was off for a rest. We followed the hyena for a little while, watching its gait get even more languid. Then suddenly, it stopped to listen and appeared transfixed by whatever it could hear. In seconds it took off at pace in the opposite direction to that which it was walking….so of course, we follow, intrigued at what the hyena heard and was reacting to. When we get to a junction, there’s another lone hyena hot-footing it directly towards us. Another sign that the bush is telling us something is happening, the question was what? We check the direction of both the hyenas and sure enough they converge on the same location, where we find Ntima,sitting on a termite mound with blood on his neck and paws but no kill in sight. About 30 metres away a clan of hyena are ripping a warthog carcass to shreds in the long grass, getting bloodied and squealing at each other in a battle to feed.

One large female hyena leaves the kill with a blood-stained face, walks closer to Ntima, who’s observing from the termite mound, and confronts him. With a growl and a grimace, angry at his hard-earned kill being stolen, he stands his ground briefly and then retreats when he sees the rest of the clan coming in his direction. A sensible move we thought, totally outnumbered eight to one, any kind of serious injury could be a death sentence for him. With Ntima chased off, the hyenas can return to their feeding frenzy. All the while you can see Ntima hovering, a greater distance than before,but still very much able to see what’s happening. His patience was incredible, clearly not wanting to relinquish his spoils so easily.

At this point our vehicle had to leave the sighting enabling others to come in and see the spectacle for themselves. When the other vehicles came back to camp,we found out that Ntima had somehow taken back his kill and hoisted it into a nearby tree for safety. Speculation by the team suggested that the hyenas could have been preoccupied fighting amongst themselves (commonplace on a kill)and moved away from the kill long enough for him to sneak in and steal his prey back –what a clever leopard! This also meant that there was a chance of finding him in the same spot in the afternoon as there was still a decent enough meal left on the carcass.Great job Ntima!

Leopards often lose their spoils to hyenas;it is a regular occurrence here. However, rarely do we see the leopard win their kill back. Ntima, yet again surprised us with his genius and patience. He has clearly learned many tricks from his mother, Ntombi “The Queen of the Timbavati”. Long may he grace us with his presence.It’s drives like these that show you how brilliant our Guide’s are. Taking the time to look at the small things gives us the opportunity to take notice of the signs all around you that just might direct you to an awesome moment awaiting discovery. Thank you blue waxbills, you lead us all to something quite spectacular!



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