For an unsuspecting porcupine, choosing to chill out in a Kruger storm drain for the day proved to be a fatal mistake. By the time the hungry leopard made its move, not even barbed body armour could save it. By Nell Hofmeyr
Wildlife lover Christoph Bühler and his family were on a morning drive between Tshokwane picnic site and Lower Sabie in the Kruger National Park when a leopard flashed past their vehicle.
“We only caught a quick glimpse of it before it disappeared by the side of the road,” explains Christoph. “We decided to wait for a while to see whether it would make a reappearance.”
Little did they know that not only would the leopard reappear, but they were about to witness what every Wild traveller dreams of: a real-life kill.
First came the sounds: grunting noises on the opposite side of the road. The next moment a porcupine came charging down the road with the leopard in hot pursuit. Evidently, rather than vanish into the bush, the elusive cat had slipped into a storm drain alongside the road where he chanced upon his next victim.
When Christoph and his wife realised the scene was about to turn bloody, they felt they had to warn their daughter that things probably weren’t going to end well for the large rodent. “Although she’s only nine she was fascinated and wanted to watch the whole thing,” he says.
Porcupines are known for being adept at self-defence, employing a range of clever tactics to ward off predators. When danger is near, they rattle their quills to make a loud, bristling noise that serves as a warning. In the event of contact, their quills are released and, with any luck, will cause a serious injury.
Christoph recalls how the porcupine tried to dodge its attacker by running towards a different storm drain further down the road, but to no avail. The agile cat was too quick, blocking its path at every turn.
“After a short standoff the leopard made its final move and managed to overpower and kill the porcupine,” he says.
The tussle lasted a good 10 minutes. Although the porcupine was ultimately defeated, it seemed to have given the cat a run for its money, and even managed to lodge a few quills in its face.
The family stayed behind a little while longer to watch the cat recuperate: “The leopard appeared exhausted after the hunt and rested for a further 10 minutes in the shade of the tree before eventually dragging the porcupine into the bush,” recalls Christoph.
I wonder if this could be the same leopard photographed in 2016 hunting porcupine near Tshokwane. − Christoph Bühler
“We were all mesmerised by the events and afterwards were a bit speechless and emotionally drained. Leopards have been my favourite animal since I was little, but I loved seeing a porcupine in broad daylight; nature is fascinating but cruel.”
Also read: Kruger leopard with a head for heights
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