HI, and welcome to my blog! I am a field guide in a private game reserve in South Africa and below you will find stories and pictures of my amazing job!

August 10, 2011

Leopard vs Porcupine: The Inside Story

Its not often I have the inclination to put up 2 blog entries so close together but every now and again a sighting comes along that justifies its sharing.  The drive started off with a stunning sighting of a female and her calf drinking from a waterhole.  I was able to position the land rover to get a great view of them quenching their thirst, reflected perfectly in the still waters. 

Mother and calf reflected in the water hole

           Then, as the African sun sank slowly over the horizon, we got the call that the grand daddy of the leopards in the area, known as Sand River, had just killed a porcupine.  It’s not often that you see this elusive spiny member of our nocturnal contingent and tonight afforded us the most graphic sight I have ever witnessed.  People always ask about the techniques used to quell such a well armoured foe and the answer is always the same: carefully!  Typically, the leopard must flip over the porcupine in order to expose the softer underbelly.  This Sand River did perfectly.  Having avoided any unpleasant encounters with the walking pincushion, he settled down to eat. 
                However, undisturbed meals in the bush are rare and with senses bordering on precognition, the hyenas soon honed in on the leopard’s dinner.  Unprepared to relinquish this evening’s nutritional treat, Sand River stood his ground, faced the competition and let out a menacing, guttural growl toward at his tormentors.  His aggression was unheeded though, and the hyenas continued their advance, minds focused solely on stealing the prickly prize.  Out numbered and out-jawed, the leopard had to take evasive action.  His gripped the porcupine in his jaws and headed for the nearest tree.  In front of one of the vehicles, he hauled the awkward meal into the branches, unperturbed by the myriad of spines that now dug into his paws and chest as he scaled the trunk to safety.

With the porcupine in his jaws, Sand River scales a marula tree

Sand River gleefully tucks into the porcupine's internal organs

          The hyenas circled the tree like sharks, chattering with excitement as they willed the leopard to drop his folly.  The leopard, now safe, was able to enjoy his food in peace.  His scissor like carnassial teeth swiftly opened the soft under parts and the hyenas’ bloodlust was briefly satisfied when a shower of entrails sloshed graphically on the ground among them.  The internal organs are the softest and most nutritional part of the animal and we watched with a grotesque fascination as the leopard ate liver, intestines and the finally the colon, looking like a starved Italian as he sucked up the organ like spaghetti, the contents of the colon being squeezed unceremoniously from its casing like a tube of toothpaste! 

Sand River stands proud and satisfied after his porcupine dinner

Sand River looking on as the hyenas gather

          After lining his own stomach, he set about the unpleasant job of removing the spines embedded in his paws and chest from the climb before finding a comfy position in the tree to digest and reflect on another successful hunt.  What a way to end the evening!