No, this is not an obscure reference to J.R.R. Tolkein’s book. Although parallels can definitely be made between what is happening on Londolozi and what happened when Aragorn of Middle Earth returned to be crowned King of Gondor. Our version, slightly simplified, involves a male leopard of royal descent, moving in to claim the throne.
Who is the young leopard in question, you ask? And whose throne will he be claiming? The Piva young male, only recently risen to prominence, is the usurper, and the falling (fallen?) ruler, the Camp Pan male.
This is not an announcement of the demise of the Camp Pan male, although, from the looks of things, his days are numbered. Nursing a badly atrophied rear left leg and getting on in years, this veteran of many battles and encounters with rivals, hyenas, and the horns and hooves of his prey, may have had 2014 as his swan song. He’s shown us before that one can never count him out entirely. Pressure from the 5:5 and Marthly males over the years has resulted in him losing his grip on the prime leopard real estate of the Sand River frontage through Londolozi, but he has consolidated marvellously, shifting territory further south and east, and forcing out the Tugwaan male in the process.
It seems though, that he is fast approaching a time in which he can no longer rely on his sheer size to outmuscle adversaries. And the nail in his coffin may have just arrived in the form of the Piva young male.
This young leopard was born in early 2010 to the Piva female. He is therefore of royal descent. The Piva female is the great- great granddaughter of the original Mother Leopard of Londolozi, and thus passes her royal blood to her son. At less than 5 years of age, the Piva young male has spent time hanging around the deep south of Londolozi, avoiding conflict with some of the other big males in the area, but over the last 6 months, we have seen a dramatic increase in his size, and it seems that he is now setting his sights on the territory of the Camp Pan male.
He is already big for his age, and has been seen vocalising and scent marking along the Maxabene riverbed, challenging the resident male (Camp Pan). The young pretender to the throne has even been seen mating already, and imagine our surprise when we discovered that the female was the Dudley Riverbank female, still alive and well at the age of 16.
The Camp Pan male was recently seen feeding off a kudu carcass in the afternoon, and when we returned to the scene in the morning, tracks of at least two male leopards were in the area, and while the Camp Pan male remained in control of the carcass, the territorial calls of another male leopard challenged from nearby. While we never actually saw who was calling, we now feel sure it was the Piva young male, and that they had clashed during the night.
Although no physical confrontation has yet been witnessed, the PYM has been moving through all of the Camp Pan male’s favourite haunts, leaving his scent on every second bush and clearly spoiling for a fight.
The Camp Pan male meanwhile, has been conspicuous by his absence.
Are we seeing the end of the reign of the Camp Pan male, a favourite among Londolozi guests and staff alike, a brute of a leopard who has thrilled us for years? Or does he have it in him to repulse this latest challenge and hang on for a little while longer?
Although it pains me to say it, I have to go with the evidence of my own eyes, and say my money is on the Piva young male. Younger and with time on his side, all he has to do is wait.
One factor we haven’t discussed is that of the Tu Tones male, the son of the Camp Pan male who is still tolerated on his father’s territory and is older and slightly bigger than the Piva young male. Have the two met in combat yet? New gashes on the face of the Tu Tones male suggest yes, but no-one can say for sure.
Watch this space, as the next few months could see a potential three-way conflict for the territory of central Londolozi.
Written by James Tyrrell
Photographed by James Tyrrell and Mike Sutherland