I haven’t seen the Anderson male in a long time. Far too long. Hardly anyone on Londolozi has, come to think of it.
The occasional set of tracks that head through the palm thickets of the Manyelethi River or a distant rasping call in the Mahlahla drainage; these and a few more like them have been the only suggestions of his passing, while actual sightings have been incredibly sporadic.
The Anderson male is certainly one of the biggest leopards ever to have trodden the game paths of Londolozi, and he’s certainly the biggest individual I’ve ever seen, but it has been a frustrating few months of trying to track him down.
Unofficially the biggest leopard in the Sabi Sands, the Anderson male is an absolutely enormous individual in north western Londolozi.
Recent efforts by tracker Freddy Ngobeni narrowed his whereabouts down to a 100m section of drainage line in the eastern sector of north Londolozi, but the thick vegetation in the area prevented him and ranger Talley Smith from actually catching sight of the leopard. Frustratingly, within a few minutes of moving off with their guests to have a sunset drinks break, they heard him calling from the depths of the little stream bed they had suspected him to be hiding in, almost as if he was taunting them.
Trying to establish exactly where he likes to move has given the Londolozi trackers headaches, as there seems to be no consistent pattern. The northern section of Londolozi (known as Marthly), has been dominated by single male leopards before (Gowrie Male, Marthly male), but without confirmed sightings of the Anderson male in the four corners of the area we were hesitant to conclude that the Anderson male was doing the same. Then two days ago, things took a slightly unexpected turn on two fronts; the Flat Rock male was discovered in the central parts of Marthly, while the Anderson male was not too far away, seemingly closing in on the Flat Rock male’s scent, only just north of the Sand River. Both males were in areas they had previously not been seen in, which made us reevaluate exactly what is happening in the male population.
The way I see it is this: The Anderson male has been roaming over a far wider area than we previously believed, but owing to a lack of sightings, we have been unable to establish the exact extent of his territory.
The Flat Rock male was found outside of his normal territory on a kill, but very close to him was the Nhlanguleni female. They had joined up to mate it seems, and it was possibly her that the Flat Rock male had left his usual haunts to follow. The Anderson male, when found by ranger John Mahoud, was sniffing the breeze carefully only a few hundred metres away, moving rapidly in the direction of the pair. To throw a little extra in the mix, there was a dead hyena not far from where the leopards were, that had been killed that morning by the Tsalala young male lions, and it may have even been this scent that the Anderson male was moving in to investigate. It’s entirely possible that he was completely oblivious to the presence of the the Flat Rock Rock male.
With the larger Inyathini male being found further and further north on a more regular basis, it seems likely that the younger and smaller Flat Rock male is being squeezed between the trio of the Anderson, Piva and Inyathini males. What the outcome of this will be is anyone’s guess.
I for one see scant chance of the Flat Rock male usurping any of the Anderson male’s territory in the north. Despite the Anderson male’s still furtive nature, and despite us being unable to conclusively determine how far his territory extends, I think it likely that he has far more of a stranglehold over the area than we imagine.