The Camp Pan male leopard is no more.
This is not actually the case, but given that this is the first of April and the leopard himself is certainly getting older, I thought it might be interesting to consider what would happen should he pass on into the happy hunting grounds of the sky, and we had to come up with a eulogy for him.
Having said that, I think I’ll rather leave the eulogy part to Tom Imrie, who has a way with words with this kind of thing, as can be read in his tributes to the Tsalala tailless lioness (older one), the old Sparta lioness and the Nottens female leopard.
What fascinates me is the shift in the leopard dynamics that would invariably take place should the Camp Pan male be dethroned.
It nearly happened in early 2011, when the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male was moving in from the South. Fortunately for him, the 5:5 male moved further east, and the Camp Pan male was able to hold on a little while longer. He was fighting a losing battle, however, as the Marthly male was encroaching steadily from the North, and now holds sway over the prime real estate of the Sand River along the entire Londolozi river frontage and even further East. The Camp Pan male has been forced further South, effectively into the area that the 5:5 male grew up in and launched his assault from. The Tugwaan male has suffered from the knock-on effects of this conflict, also being forced further south and east by the larger Camp Pan male. The Tugwaan male, once a stalwart of our leopard viewing in the southern areas, has not been seen on Londolozi for about a year now.
So who would stand to gain from the demise of the Camp Pan male? If you look at the map below, you can see the most likely leopards that border his territory. The Tu-Tones male in fact, not indicated on the map, has shown considerable overlap of territory with the Camp Pan male, who is his father, and for some reason has been tolerated in the area, even when mating with the same female!
Five different males form a ring around the Camp Pan male’s territory, but he his holding fast, relying on his enormous size to ward off all-comers. Will it even be one of the above-mentioned leopards who overthrow him, or will a vagrant male wander in from elsewhere in the reserve or even the vast wilderness that is the Kruger Park? For that matter, will it even be an overthrow of territory that removes him once-and-for-all from Londolozi?
An old leopard like the Camp Pan male will be entering a steady decline in muscle mass, and as the weeks and months go by, he will become just that little bit weaker and that little bit slower, until eventually one of the younger usurpers that constantly eye the borders of his territory will move in to finally pressure him out of it, or another predator like a lion will catch him off guard, his reaction time will be too slow, he will be too weak to defend himself, and he will be killed.
Two years ago we thought we were seeing the last of the Camp Pan, a leopard who has been prominent on Londolozi for the better part of a decade, which is no mean feat for a male in this area of fierce competition.
He has exceeded our expectations though and is still going strong. Will it be a year or even two before we finally no longer hear his deep, rasping territorial call, or will 2014 be the year of Camp Pan’s swan song?
Your thoughts below, if you please…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell