Things can happen pretty quickly in the bush, so although the turn around time was quick, it’s not that surprising that in just 6 months, the male leopard population has undergone some radical restructuring.
Referring back to a post from August last year, we see that the Marthly male was still very much a force along the river, mating with the Mashaba female and looking to help her produce her next litter. The Camp Pan and Tu-Tones males were both mating with the Tamboti female, and the Gowrie male had to be actively sought out by the Tutlwa female for mating, as their territories hardly overlapped.
Fast forward to today.
The Gowrie male has expanded his territory to now include the whole of Marthly, right down to the Sand River and the Londolozi Camps, taking advantage of the ageing of the Marthly male.
The Marthly male himself has been officially dethroned as the King of the River in Londolozi. Narrowly avoiding death under the claws of the young Tsalala lioness a couple of weeks ago, he is a skinny and spent version of his former self, and is seldom encountered these days. The Tu-Tones male has experienced a severe mauling by another predator and when seen by ranger Don Heyneke a few days ago, was in terrible condition. He is sadly not expected to survive long. The Camp Pan male also had a narrow escape from the young Tsalala lioness, ironically on the same day as the Marthly male, and given his atrophied back leg and his current non-territorial status, he is very unlikely to see 2015 through.
This sounds like a roll call of melancholy and despair, but it is simply life in the bush undergoing another revolution. New blood south of the river is rising to the fore, and two leopards in particular are staking their claim in the heart of Londolozi.
The Piva male’s stranglehold on the central and eastern areas of the property grows ever stronger. Read Simon Smit’s January update of this leopard’s movements for a more detailed report.
His main rival is a relatively unknown entity, the Short-tailed male, a leopard who originally appeared in mid to late 2014 and whose origins are still a mystery (This animal is not to be confused with the Tugwaan male, who was also once named the Short Tailed male, after his mother).
When first encountered on the Londolozi property he was a relatively skittish leopard, a fact that suggests he came from the Kruger National Park, where enormous wilderness areas with no roads are to be found, and the leopards there are not used to the Land Rovers. He was seen mating with the Ximpalapala young female in November 2014, so there is the chance she is stashing cubs somewhere (She is a seldom-encountered leopard and little is known about her current status).
As he has continued to settle in to his new home, so too have the lines that divide his territory from the Piva male’s become more entrenched. Seldom does one hear one of these two males rasping out their territorial call without hearing an answering call from the other, somewhere in the distance.
Thankfully, due to concerted efforts by the ranging and tracking team, the Short-Tailed male has become far more relaxed around the vehicles, and sightings of him are becoming more and more frequent.
Whilst it is sad that leopards like the Camp Pan, Tu-Tones and Marthly males should be thrust aside by stronger opponents and be consigned to oblivion, it is part of the natural order of things, and when they go, we should not weep their passing. Rather, we should rejoice in the fact that the leopard population continues to thrive in as natural a way as is possible, without interference from us.
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell