It’s not just politicians who fight tooth and nail for power.

These striking images show the moment two young leopards faced off in a bitter and bloody struggle for territory, to match anything you will see in Westminster.

The rare encounter was captured by wildlife photographer Andrew Batchelor, 27, while on an expedition at MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa’s Lowveld region.

Claws are out: The two young male leopards fight over territory in the MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa, while a hyena watches the spectacular clash

Face off: The leopards size each other up as they prepare to do battle

When two younger, fitter males bent on domination arrived on the scene, the current boss, an older male, named by locals as ‘Manyelethi’ sensed trouble.

‘With three big male leopards in the area the scene was set for fireworks,’ Mr Batchelor said.

‘Manyelethi decided that both younger males were too much of a match for him and snuck off up the Mlowathi River roaring his disgust at having his territory invaded.’

What followed was a tense stalemate to the sound of growling and hissing and pacing up and down as the rivals sized each other up.

But while there was a lot of bad noise between the two that night, it wasn’t until the next evening that tensions turned into all out war as these images reveal.

When Mr Batchelor returned to the same spot he realised the deadly rivals were preparing to fight.

At first it was more of the same bravado as before, both posturing as and snarling and pacing threateningly, Mr Batchelor said.

But then out of nowhere the situation exploded.

Fireworks: The big cats take a tumble and the hyena continues to enjoy the spectacle

Epic battle: Despite the vicious fighting the two leopards eventually end their combat and decide to share the territory using the river as a border

The photographer, who witnessed the drama from metres away, said: ‘Diving through the air the males crashed into each other, both going immediately for the head and neck area.

‘With teeth bared and claws outstretched they came to the ground in a death lock both trapped in the grasp of the other.’

After several minutes of fighting the leopards were exhausted and bleeding, and as quickly as it had started, the combat ended.

According to Mr Batchelor, who is based in Durban in South Africa, this kind of intense confrontation is rare.

Despite tense close encounters being fairly common, normally disputes are settled by the weaker male submitting to the dominant male and leaving the scene.

After the clash, the two male leopards kept just ten yards apart and with a watchful eye on each other, both were still growling menacingly, as they sat and licked their wounds.

When Mr Batchelor returned later in the day he was surprised to find that only one of the leopards was still at the scene and assumed the other had conceded defeat and grudgingly turned away.

But he later found out, unusually for leopards, the two males had reached a power sharing deal.

Now the leopards share the territory, using the river as the frontier none should dare cross.

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