“Claws Out for Love: Male Leopards Compete, But Female Keeps Peace”


Watch the incredible moment a leopardess on heat spots two male leopards fighting over her, where she comes in and seemingly breaks up the fight!

Daniel Bailey, 28-year-old Safari Guide at Mala Mala, captured this incredible sighting while on one of his drives recently. He explained the scenes leading up to his intense sighting:

“It was early in the morning. The temperature was still cool and ideal for a sighting of one of the big cats.

Not long after we started the drive, we found fresh tracks of a male leopard on the road close to the riverbank. We soon found him in a drainage line just a few feet off the road.”

“While observing the leopard, everything from his body language, constant scent-marking, and profuse salivation, it became clear that there was another leopard in the area. Indeed, a few moments later, another male leopard appeared. As soon as he became visible an audible low growl commenced and then a female appeared! She trailed the 2nd male’s every move, rubbing up against him, trying to entice him to mate with her.”

“As the sighting played out, a sense of excitement and adrenaline started to course through my veins. It is special seeing a leopard in the wild but three adults together is not so common. The presence of a female in oestrus and two big males seeking breeding rights, it had all the ingredients for an unforgettable sighting. It was clear that neither male wished to relinquish the opportunity to mate. The scene was on a knifes edge and tensions were running high. A fight was imminent.”

“The two male leopards sized each other up. Then started running alongside each other (a display known as parallel drafting) and then a fight broke out between the two males. They made contact just out of sight behind some vegetation. Once regaining visual, both males were locked teeth and claw in a ball. The younger male had pinned the older male by the head and neck. Whilst, the other kicked and scratched wildly to try to loosen his grip.”


“The female eventually caught up, examined the scene and then seemingly broke up the fight. She attacked the nape of the neck of the younger male and this sent all three leopards flying into the air. The younger male, unsure of his attacker, let go of his grip and quickly escaped to the safety of a nearby Sausage tree. The scene settled down, with the older male, slightly bruised and disorientated. He scent-marked and eventually lay down in the shade, licking and cleaning his wounds. The female examined him briefly and then disappeared into the river bed below the Sausage Tree to try and find the victor of the fight, which by now had descended the tree.”

“It was a very rare sighting. It was a dream sighting for any ranger or guest alike. One could spend a lifetime in the bush and never see male leopards in a serious fight. Let alone have three leopards in a sighting, and for it to escalate into a serious fight.”

“When you are at a sighting that might get intense, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. Try and ensure you have a beanbag or something to support your camera body and a larger lens to prevent camera shake. Your adrenaline will be through the roof, and your hands will be shaking due to the excitement. Try stay zoomed out – if you’re zoomed in too close you’ll miss a lot.”

“At the sighting, there was just me and my guests. At Mala Mala Game Reserve the leopard sightings are restricted to only two vehicles at a time. This is done to ensure the comfortability of the predators and to ensure there is no negative effect on these high profile felines.”



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