Although seldom seen, rough-and-tumble tussles for food and survival are commonplace among Africa's predators. Many carnivores resort to stealing second-hand meals if the opportunity presents itself and sometimes a sought-after carcass can cause a substantial kerfuffle. Footage recently uploaded to the Kruger Sightings YouTube channel shows a leopard forced to relinquish its impala meal to a pack of painted dogs that, in turn, lost out to a clan of brazen hyenas.

The commotion kicked off when a leopard successfully brought down an impala ram attracting the attention of a single painted dog. "The lone wild dog, who is one of a pack made up of 11 adults and 10 pups, was yapping as the leopard dragged the meal (still alive at the time) up from the riverbed onto the open area that you see in the video," a witness to the drama explained to Latest Sightings. A single dog was not enough to force the cat off its kill, but a series of coordinated yips and barks by the canine drew the rest of the pack to the area. Just moments from successfully dragging its catch into the safety of the treetops, the leopard was forced to flee as the dogs charged in to claim a free meal. "The impala saw the opportunity and tried to make a run for it, just before it was brought down again by the wild dogs!" explained an onlooker whose name was only given as Wayne.

The dogs quickly devoured as much of the impala as they could before a pair of hyenas barrelled onto the scene triggering further pandemonium. A third and fourth hyena arrived and the quartet tussled and squabbled for prime position. "The wild dogs returned every so often to see if they could win the meal back, but, as the minutes passed, there was less and less left of the carcass,” Wayne explained.

The leopard, meanwhile, was forced to watch from the safety of the treetop as its rivals divvied up the spoils. While they are amongst the strongest of the big cats, leopards are solitary animals and sometimes fall victim to kleptoparasitism from other carnivores. To avoid losing a meal, the agile hunters use their brawn to hoist carcasses into the boughs of trees where they are usually out of reach of other predators. In this instance, opportunistic rivals were quick to the scene. Painted dogs are highly accomplished hunters but, like many other predators, they will scavenge for food – especially if they can use their numbers to easily commandeer a meal. 

Even with substantial numbers on their side, though, the dogs were no match for the heftier hyenas, whose boldness paid off. "The hyenas finished off every shred of the impala except the head, within minutes, only stopping to fight with each other – and the largest female then made off with the head to a nearby open field," Wayne recalls. Spare a thought for the impala that clearly fared the worst in this dramatic skirmish.