“Few people have been lucky to see a leopard in the wild. How many have actually been bitten by one?”
These were the opening sentences of Sven Musica’s story about his encounter with a leopard recently at the Wildside Enduro near eManzana (formerly Badplaas).
Musica described the injury as “embarrassingly small” for a leopard attack, but said had they done certain things differently, it could have ended far worse.
“Although I only have a light scratch and a small bruise on my chin out of the encounter, I realise how different the outcome could have been.”
Musica and Arlo van Heerden were there as videographers for the enduro event and decided to camp in the mountains with the marshal team last Friday evening.
“This was no commercial campsite, just a spot in a valley, so as far as wildlife and reptiles [go], it’s an anything goes area.
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“I took two tents along, a light-weight Vango tent and a thick ripstop canvas dome tent.”
They opted for the ripstop canvas, which is also more waterproof.
“So here is where sh*t went down… Arlo and myself were in the tent talking last-minute nonsense when all of a sudden the tent was hit hard and I felt heavy pressure on my neck.
“At first, thinking somebody was playing some prank on us, I shouted, ‘Who the f*ck was that? You just jumped on my neck!’”
“After no response but Arlo saying he can still hear the guy in the grass, I decided I wanted to see who the *rs*hole was, so I rapidly climbed out of the tent.”
With Van Heerden directly behind him with the light, they spotted a leopard about two metres away snaking away into a nearby bush a further 10 metres away.
“After shouting, ‘Here’s a leopard!’, the initial reception from the others in camp, which most were still awake and moving around at that point, was that we talking sh*t. But then with enough torches for confirmation, the leopard slowly walked off.
“With my neck very lightly bleeding, but still not fully processing what just happened, the others moved off to the tents and we climbed back into ours thinking the leopard would move off.”
Musica made a phone call then, but realising the leopard could likely determine the position of his head based on the sound of his voice, he ended the call. He also told Van Heerden he was not very keen to talk right then for the same reason.
“As I said that, the grass started rustling behind the tent and we knew it was back. We went ice cold quiet and it started sniffing the tent, sounding like a dog sniffing.
“We started punching the tent and shouting, then we stopped and listened… and it sniffed at another side. We punched the tent again and went quite; the leopard wasn’t deterred at all.”
At that point, they were not all too willing to get out of the tent, and phoned one of the marshals to come and shine a torch to try and chase it away.
“As he lit his torch the leopard was at the door of the tent. After a few ‘f*k*ff!’s, it ran up a slight granite face 20 metres away and sat there.
“This leopard was not afraid of us, so we asked around if anyone had a firearm just to fire a shot to scare if off.”
None were available, so with the help of a torch, Van Heerden threw a few stones at it, and it went away.
They ended up moving their tent in between the cars and upon inspection the next morning, found one of Van Heerden’s plakkies (that had presumably fell out of the tent) chewed up in the grass.
“As I said, it’s an embarrassing small injury from a leopard attack, but if we had used the hiking tent, things would have turned out very different.
“It wasn’t the biggest leopard, but [with] the power that it hit the tent, you realise how strong they are.”
Musica and Van Heerden suspect that it was a female or possibly a young male, but Musica described its behaviour as “almost full-of-sh*t kitten behaviour”.
Regardless of that, he came off lightly and said he was very glad about that.
Read original story on lowvelder.co.za