The territorial shifts of the large male leopards around the Sand River has been a hot topic for quite some time now. All of the talk and mere speculation suddenly became reality just the other day.
The Gowrie male first appeared in the Sabi Sands around 2011. Judging by his size, he is estimated to have been born around 2005/6.
Greg Pingo and tracker Andrea Sithole had been following tracks of a male leopard through the whole of Marthly, a mammoth effort with little reward. The tracks came all the way from our north eastern boundary and snaked across the north of Londolozi until they reached the river. A perplexed but persistent team, the two continued to look for signs of the large leopard who they assumed to be the Gowrie male. The morning’s search was not over and there were soon to be new developments. Tracker Foster Masiye and I had received a report of a leopard in the area and went in to have a look on foot. Rounding a bush I saw a massive male leopard, assuming it was the Marthly male I approached slowly and was blown away when my gaze connected with the unmistakable orange glow of the Gowrie males’ eyes! He was here, on the southern bank after months of anticipation and I was lucky enough to be one of the first to see him in this new and uncharted territory of his.
The Gowrie male has been seen as far south as the nothern bank of the river multiple times now, but until then, never on southern bank. The Marthly male has been the dominant male over this piece of Londolozi south of the river for the last few years but lately he is not the only male that has been seen in the area. A new young male, smaller in stature than his competitors has got plans of his own for the area west of camp south of the river. A relatively unknown male that has been seen on a few occasions but has largely been elusive and shy around vehicles has made him difficult to view.
This has continued to pressure the Marthly male who has not been seen north of the river this year. His territory constricting day by day. It is time for new genes to move into the area and they come in the means of younger stronger leopards. The pressure pot west of camp will soon reach boiling point and lines with have to be drawn. It is going to be interesting to see which leopard comes out on top!
This is not the last we will see of the Gowire male in the south but could it be the last we see of the Marthly male?
This male moved in from the north of the reserve in 2010, and was instantly recognisable by his unique tuft of fur at the back of his neck.
Written and photographed by Simon Smit