One of my favorite things in the bush is the random, unexpected sightings. To this day they are my most favorite thing about being on safari. By “random things” I refer to the events you witness that seemingly don’t make sense when you focus on just that small piece of the puzzle, but become much clearer when you look at the bigger picture and force your brain to think outside the box.
In my career as a guide, I’ve been lucky enough to witness some incredible things. From high action and raw power to the most tender of moments, to the very special but strange moments that all you have can do is laugh about.
I’ve had three such moments with genets in the last couple of months. Now – if you wonder what a genet is, imagine a really cool and clever – ferret-like creature that lives in the African bush amongst lions and leopards. Mostly a nocturnal creature, they keep to the trees for safety and you normally find them during night drives. I’ve only seen genets out and about during the day a handful of times. Although they could look like a small leopard to some, they’re actually more closely related to civets and mongoose than to lions or leopards.
All sightings of genets in the last few months have been quite random as they have involved leopards for some reason. Leopards can eat genets and will hunt them too if given the opportunity but it’s not something you see often, as it doesn’t appear they are either a big part of their diet.
The first sighting of my triple series was back in August when Tristan and I headed to Londolozi. On our way to the Founder’s Camp our guide Kirsten spotted something atop a tree.
“What is that?”
“Is it a monkey?”
“It has a long tail”
“Oh, It’s a genet! On top of the dead tree”
There it was indeed. A lonely genet with its tail blowing in the wind. Genets normally don’t behave this way and the beauty of the bush that keeps drawing me in is that it’s a puzzle that you need to piece together to better understand the reasons behind what you are seeing. Yes, some things can happen at random but mostly there is a reason as to why creatures behave a certain way. A genet in a tree, in the open, during the heat of the day, doesn’t make much sense.
As we scanned the area and the tree with binoculars, we realized the remains of an antelope kill were lodged in the fork of the tree.
“Quite a sizeable kill for a little genet” – we thought. “This is someone else’s kill, likely a leopard”
The genet could have been caught scavenging but if it was still standing on top of the dead tree like that – likely the predator was still around. We scanned the area and hiding under a fallen-over tree were the unmistakable spots of a young leopard!
Likely the genet was treed by the mother of the cubs and would have to play the patience game to be able to climb down and move off to ensure that it wouldn’t be the next meal. We did chuckle at the greedy genet stuck up on a tree patiently waiting for the leopards to move off after presuming it could have a free meal. Although we saw lions on a kill that afternoon – the genet sighting although brief and at a distance was still the most memorable event for the day.
Not long after this sighting, while guiding as a presenter for WildEarth.tv I had two more sightings of genets and leopards. The leopard was the same on both occasions: Shasha (he ranks high on my list of cool leopards I’ve been lucky to meet). Shasha is a young male that is in the process of dispersing and trying to find a territory where to establish himself. If I could anthropomorphize Shasha I would define him as a sweet boy. I don’t know what a “sweet” natured leopard is in the wild, but Shasha would be where I put my money. He is also a really good-looking cat (no, not all leopards were created equally) – in a “classic beauty” sense. Imagine those wedding cake toppers – Shasha is the leopard equivalent of a cake toy groom.
The first sighting involved Shasha waiting for ages to hunt something. We presumed a squirrel as we could see something moving in the bushes but out of the thickets eventually came dashing out a genet! It ran incredibly fast, barely dodging Shasha, and went to the very top of a slim Tamboti tree. It was a perfect choice of a tree as Shasha wasn’t able to climb up the tree. Lucky for the genet Shasha got hot and tired and didn’t pursue it any longer.
Lucky because I was presenting for WE Mrs. Zero managed to do a highlight (sadly we didn’t catch Shasha chasing the genet live) of the sighting. If you want to watch it, click below:
My third epic genet sighting happened in Shasha’s company too. The genet was also randomly perched on a tree but I couldn’t decipher if it was because:
– it had been chased up the tree by the leopard,
– if it was sleeping on a tree nearby and had spotted the leopard and was wary of it,
– it had smelled the kill on the tree and it too, wanted to grab a bite of the carcass.
Lucky, because sometimes live tv shows do save the content forever, you can watch this sighting below too!
I didn’t have enough clues to piece the puzzle together but it was definitely an interesting one and I think my best genet sighting because it went on for AGES. Seems like wherever Shasha went, genets are around. I’m not sure if this is because he’s eaten his fair share (leopards really do have a varied diet) or sheer coincidence, but I was all too happy to spend time with a sleepy genet for once!
If we get too focused on the big scary things, who knows – we might just miss the little sightings and mysteries that become all too memorable and that leave you feeling happy about life.