The incredible moment Nkanyi caught a baby impala, and played with it.
The morning drive started off not too different from many we’ve had before. We set out from the lodge with a mission and a plan. Not long after departure we got the call that Nkanyi was located on the property just south of us. Naturally, we made our way there.
She was up to her usual antics, and with the cloudy and cool morning we knew she would be as busy as ever.
We knew that if we followed her for long enough we would see her try her luck. Expecting her to chase after a squirrel or scrub hare as she often does, we were surprised when we heard that she caught, but didn’t kill, a baby impala.
As soon as we arrived into the sighting we saw the impala, but couldn’t spot Nkanyi. It was then that we realised she was lying on her back, right next to the impala.
It was clear that Nkanyi had no intention of ending her hunt any time soon. The impala also knew it had a very slim to no chance of escaping. It even seemed as if the impala surrendered to it’s dark fate. There was no way the impala could outrun a leopardess in her prime, and it would be somewhat unrealistic to fight off its attacker.
Nkanyi seemed to enjoy the game, even walking around the impala. She has always seemed to work with us, as observers, instead of trying to make our lives difficult.
A short dash
Regardless of the futiilty thereof, the impala did make a couple attempts at escape. The first one we saw only lasted a few metres before Nkanyi was back to her antics
We witnessed some behavior that I personally have never even heard of before. She seemed to take the foot of the impala and almost taste it before it was yanked away.
At points she even seemed to caress the impala, showing minimal agression towards it. The only thing that I have ever seen that comes close to it, is a large domestic dog playing with a smaller one. This was obviously not the case. She more than likely was gentle as to keep her prey alive for as long as possible. Cats of all sizes will at opportunity catch and “play” with prey in order to get as much practice and experience out of the hunt as possible.
As if the sighting was not already completely unforgettable the show continued.
Nkanyi put her paw (and some claws) on top of the impala’s head and pulled it towards her…..
… and decided to bite the impala’s nose. She was more than likely just playing and didn’t do any serious damage to the impala.
The great escape
The baby impala made another dash behind some bushes, unfortunately out of our view. After repositioning the vehicle we had a clear view once again. From the new position we could see that the impala seemed to have accepted its fate.
Battered and bruised the impala remained. Nkanyi in its face and no more options, or so we thought.
Like a true warrior the impala decided to make a dash for it once more.
This choice seemed to shock Nkanyi as much as it shocked us.
Nkanyi missed her first attempt at grabbing the baby and returning it to her clutches. This meant that there was an opening for the impala. Not a big opening, but a slim chance is better than where the impala was 10 seconds ago.
Nkanyi wasted no time whatsoever to chase after the impala. In a lot of sightings the large cats are asleep or walking, rarely hunting. When they are relaxed and not focussed on anything they seem very docile and, admittedly, cute. But within a split second they can transform from a cute animal to your worst nightmare. Looking at her body language up until this point it is clear that she was mainly relaxed, curious and playful. But the moment her food tries to escape she completely changes her behaviour.
She rapidly closed the distance between herself and her escaping prey. Once caught up she seemed to jog and not use all her explosive speed. In a sustained run the impala could outrun her with sheer endurance. But in short distances Nkanyi is in her elemant and can accelerate to their top speed of 55-60 km/h (35-37 mph) in only two or three strides. They are also able to pounce up to 6 metres (about 20 feet) and can jump 3 metres (about 10 feet) straight into the air. This means that regardless of escaping Nkanyi’s first attempt at recapture, the impala would be back in her reach again in no time.
As expected, with a short burst of speed and a leap forward she was on top of the impala once again.
Close-ups of this sighting are not for the feint hearted. Nkanyi narrowly missed her second attempt at the impala, swiping right between it’s hind legs.
Hitting the back legs, but not getting a grip. An extremely lucky additional chance for the impala.
The oppertunity was short lived, Nkanyi had masterfully pushed the impala towards a bush.
Before long she was face to face again with her captor once again.
The last chance
Stuck between a bush and a leopard is not a position anyone wants to be in. The impala managed to maneuver itself out of it’s corner.
Knowing that it was now or never the impala made another dash for freedom.
Once again the impala caught Nkanyi off guard.
The impala managed to wiggle itself out of the grasp of Nkanyi.
It was, however, a short lived attempt and before long Nkanyi had caught up to it and finished her hunt in a bush behind us.
We all knew what the outcome of this sighting would be. An adult female impala stood nearby alarm calling whilst watching this event unfold. It might have been the baby impala’s mother, but we would never know for sure. Between the crying bleats coming from the fawn, the calling of the adult nearby and the futile attempts at escape we were all a little heartbroken. Regardless of the fact that we know it is nature and animals get killed for others to survive, it was a tough pill to swallow.