The male leopards and their territories have been generating fuel for debate both amongst the field team and the online community of late. Which males are causing shifts and which are shifting because of pressure from larger, stronger, or possibly just more experienced leopards? Different males have been mentioned and the more prominent contenders have been written about a little more extensively. There is a male however who has been mentioned, but not really considered, for the territorial race.
A young male, with a 4:4 spot pattern and an alias or two (Matsetserepe and the Robsons Male) is making a move on the western piece of Londolozi south of the river. A territory that is good but not as highly prized as other slightly more productive leopard pockets in the area. Large open tracts with rank grassland brilliant for cheetah and other animals that favour more open areas, fill the majority of his target area. This has meant the larger males have concentrated on land that, at the moment, is a little more productive than this area. At around six years old he still has some physical filling out to do but for what he lacks in size he makes up in confidence. Challenging the Gowrie male head-on after the Gowrie male crossed the Sand River onto the southern bank, the 4:4 male didn’t just roll over and let the larger leopard lay claim. The area west of the Londolozi camps that both leopards are eyeing out holds good water, bountiful prey and a couple of females, and the smaller 4:4 male wouldn’t give it up without a confrontation.
This newcomer has been seen fighting, eating and mating with the Mashaba female. The latter and its success are still to be confirmed. The Mashaba female has now been without a litter for sometime and I’m sure is ready to reproduce again. There is another female in the west where there is potential for this young male to reproduce. The Nhlanguleni female is now just about ready to have her first litter. These two prominent females have good genes and could aid the underdog in his role in the continuation of an incredible species.
The ebb and flow of the condition and confidence of the contenders is enthralling. The males are known but final outcome of the territorial shifts taking place is ever changing. Which male and and when they will land up on top is still in question.
Written and photographed by Simon Smit