Early on one of our morning drives at the recent Ultimate Big 5 Safari at Sabi Sabi our ranger Ross and tracker Solly got lucky. There was a female leopard strolling down the road we were driving along. She was moving with intent, every so often ducking into the bushes. We followed her as she went through a particularly thick section of brush looking for a warthog she had spotted from a distance.
After a while we lost sight of her but Solly, who apparently has better eyesight than a hawk, noticed something off on a distant hill that he thought we should check out. Ross ploughed ahead in the Land Rover and before too long we came across a female rhino, static in some pretty long grass. At first we didn’t notice what was going on but then as she moved around we could see that she was protecting a new-born calf! She had given birth sometime in the night and the little rhino was experiencing his first hours of daylight with us. What a treat!
After spending a few minutes with this mom and baby we noticed that there was a spotted brown hyena lurking off in the distance. It had obviously picked up on the scent of the afterbirth and was angling to make off with the placenta. We were concerned that the hyena would make a possible attack on the rhino calf, but the mom was keeping a close vigil on the newborn. Ross was pretty confident that all the hyena wanted was the placenta.
It was a fascinating encounter and I said something like “All we need now is for that leopard to show up.” The words were hardly out of my mouth when behind us we noticed a shape moving closer and closer in the long grass. It was she. Oh my. A Mexican standoff featuring rhino, hyena and leopard!
We stayed with them for a while. Neither the hyena nor the leopard was prepared to risk becoming a flatbread, so our guess was that the two predators were going to wrangle it out for the after birth. We decided to leave them all alone and let nature take its course. The rangers closed down the sighting so as to avoid putting too much stress on the mother rhino so we don’t know what the outcome of the standoff was.