We recently had our first good look at a male leopard that seems to have been spending time in the northern reaches of Londolozi.
We were quite lucky to locate him and initially had no idea that he was even in the area. While Rich Siwele and I were driving one of the roads in this area, Rich spotted an impala carcass hoisted in a tree. A sure sign that there is a leopard in the area, we looked around and soon noticed the Nyeleti 3:3 young female lying on the ground not far from the tree.
Funnily enough, this was the first time I had seen the Nyeleti young female, so, eager to get a closer look, I set about looking for a place to cross a deceivingly tricky drainage line. Eventually Rich and I found a place that we agreed looked crossable. As my front wheels went into the riverbed, I started sinking and was past the point of no return. Eager not to get the dreaded pink ammunition pouch (an ‘award’ for the last ranger who gets stuck and has to be towed), Rich and I set about packing branches, rocks and any other debris we could find, under the wheels. The only problem was that the Nyeleti young female was now lying a mere 25 odd metres from us!
It was then that I discovered what would turn out to be the Gowrie male. All the while, I’d been closely watching the Nyeleti young female as Richard assessed the situation and gathered the necessary tools. She seemed quite relaxed and, apart from the occasional cursory glance, she didn’t pay us much attention at all. I was therefore quite surprised to hear a rumbling/growling coming from her direction. It clearly wasn’t the female leopard growling and with the Marthly male being on a kill on the other side of the Manyeleti River, it was unlikely to be a male who had robbed her of her kill. Just then, I heard a rustle in the bushes and saw a large male dragging his kill away from the commotion we were causing. Desperate to get a glimpse of this unknown male, Rich and I escalated our efforts and soon managed to get ourselves unstuck and, after following the drag mark created by the male dragging the remains of the impala through the long grass, we found him lying in a thicket of silver cluster leaf trees.
He wasn’t nearly as relaxed as many of the other leopards that we are lucky enough to view. He flattened his ears and gave us the occasional snarl while protecting his prized impala. I wasn’t sure as to whether this was due him being annoyed by our efforts to get unstuck while he was guarding his kill, or whether it was just his temperament. It turns out that, based on sightings to the north of Londolozi, this is quite normal for him and seems to be part of his personality. Based on his reaction, we decided to leave him and return in the afternoon to see if his mood had improved.
When we returned, he had hoisted the impala into a marula tree and, after feeding for a while, he lay on top of the remains, just to make sure that the Nyeleti young female had no chance of scavenging any of the remains!
Upon closer inspection, I noticed that he has a 2:1 spot pattern (2 on the right cheek and 1 on the left) and a scar next to the single spot on his left cheek. He also has very striking orange eyes, which are quite distinctive.
I managed to find out that he is seen on both MalaMala, where he is known as the Gowrie male, and in the northern Sabi Sand, where he is called Lamula.
He is estimated to be five or six years old (born 2005/6) and was first seen
in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin during July 2011. He is said to have initially been quite nervous, but he has since relaxed. His origins are uncertain, but the fact that he was nervous suggests that he has perhaps moved in from the Kruger National Park, or an area where he has not been viewed very frequently.
He has been seen crossing south onto Londolozi all the way along the northern break of Marthly, but most of the time it seems that he is in the northeastern sector of Marthly.
For some time now, I’ve noticed that the Marthly male has been moving further and further south, into what used to be the Camp Pan male’s territory. After seeing the Gowrie male on northern Londolozi and, learning that he has been frequenting the area quite regularly, I wonder if this shift in the territory of the Marthly male is due to pressure from the Gowrie male in the north? I’m sure that in time we will see if the trend continues and hopefully we’ll have more regular sightings of the Gowrie male.
Written and photographed by James Crookes