A video filmed in South Africa’s MalaMala Game Reserve of a leopard hunting for catfish in a pool of muddy water, unaware of an even larger creature lurking close-by. The footage shows a female leopard cautiously navigating the soggy soil while pawing for sharptooth catfish – a species of freshwater fish found in many inland areas in South Africa. The sludge suddenly starts to move and a hefty hippo rises from the mire. The scaredy-cat scurries away as the monster from the mud turns to face her. Satisfied that the threat had been successfully repelled, the hippo settled back into its muddy bed.
The second part of the video shows the leopard returning to the sludgy hunting grounds under the cover of darkness. She trudges through the thick mud and successfully manages to haul out a large, slippery catfish.
During the winter months, many waterholes in the MalaMala area start to dry up, leaving only shallow pools of mud. These shrinking dams are attractive to opportunistic predators looking to try their luck at fishing. Leopards have diverse diets and won’t turn their nose up at an easy meal, no matter how sludgy or fishy. When hunting, these big cats largely rely on their camouflage, but it seems this particular leopard was out-camouflaged in its first attempt at landing a meal.
Hippopotamuses, or hippos, are semiaquatic mammals that spend their days submerged in pools of mud or water and emerge at night to graze. These mega mammals may seem slow and lethargic, but their unpredictable and aggressive nature has earned them a place as one of the world’s most dangerous animals in Africa. It seems like this lady leopard knew what was best for her safety and gave the hippo its space, choosing to return in the evening for a meal.