Untold stories of the Zambezi: a leopard’s unusual prey

Posted on 30 June 2023 By Lisa Abdellah

By Kim Barnett

In a remarkable and captivating sighting, Vusumuzi (Vusa) Sibanda, a seasoned Zimbabwean guide with over 15 years of experience, witnessed a truly extraordinary moment in Zambezi National Park. On 17 June, after an early morning game drive with guests from the luxurious Wild Horizons Old Drift Lodge, Vusa embarked on an unforgettable adventure. Little did he know that he would soon capture an incredible event through his camera lens. 

As a senior guide at Wild Horizons’ Old Drift Lodge, Vusa has developed an intimate knowledge of the park over his six years of service. But on that fateful day, he knew that it was worth continuing his morning game drive and went to venture out on his own, armed with his camera and an insatiable curiosity. It was a decision that would reward him with an experience like no other. 

The leopard that stole the show is a resident female known as Nyathi. Her story is one of resilience and survival. Approximately three years ago, she was rescued from a wire snare, which left a permanent and recognisable scar on her shoulder. Since then, she has become a familiar presence around Old Drift Lodge, captivating guests and guides alike. 

During the morning game drive, Vusa and his guests came across Nyathi relaxing at the base of a tree, where the remains of an impala she had killed earlier were still hanging. After observing her, Vusa returned to the lodge, dropping off his guests. But his curiosity got the better of him, and he decided to return leisurely to Nyathi’s location.  

To his astonishment, as Vusa approached, he saw Nyathi now holding a Marabou stork in her powerful jaws. It appeared that the stork had come to scavenge on the remnants of the impala kill, only to become the leopard’s next unexpected prey. Vusa managed to capture this rare moment through his camera lens, documenting a fascinating interaction between two iconic species.   

This extraordinary sighting highlights the remarkable biodiversity of Zambezi National Park. Nestled along the banks of the majestic Zambezi River, the park is a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise. Its sprawling landscapes are home to various magnificent creatures, from the regal African elephant to the stealthy leopard. It’s not uncommon for visitors to witness the awe-inspiring sight of a lion pride on the prowl or the elusive African wild dog in action. The park also boasts a rich avian population, with species like the vibrant lilac-breasted roller and the majestic African fish eagle gracing the skies. 

With an estimated population of 1 000 leopards in Zimbabwe, these elusive cats hold a prominent presence within Zambezi National Park. Known for their stealth and grace, leopards navigate the dense undergrowth with unparalleled agility. As solitary hunters, they have a diverse diet, feeding on antelope, monkeys, and even fish. A safari experience in the park offers the opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, capturing the untamed beauty of Zambezi National Park. 

Vusa’s passion for his work as a guide, coupled with his love for photography, perfectly encapsulates the essence of a safari adventure. Every day brings the potential for unique encounters and awe-inspiring moments that will be cherished for a lifetime.  

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