We’ve written before about the Ndzanzeni young male leopard that has simply refused to become independent.
Every time we think he’s out on his own for good, he turns up at the spot where his mother has a kill, and despite her aggressive behaviour towards him, he remains unfazed, and still attempts to appropriate his share of the kill. Although you’ll often read in textbooks how leopards become independent at between 18 and 24 months, at Londolozi and in the Sabi Sand Reserve in general, independence seems to be attained at younger ages than that. 18 months is actually considerably longer than we have seen sub-adults staying with their mothers, and 15-16 months is more often the age at which they will properly start venturing out on their own. Yet this young male appears determined to buck this trend.
One might also read that young males become independent slightly later than their sisters, and I’m not going to go into the reasons behind this too much here, suffice it to say that this is something we have observed. The fact is though that of all the young leopards born and raised on Londolozi over the last decade or so, very few have been male. The Maxabene young males (2008), the Nyelethi young males (2009) and the Vomba young male (2012) have been the last males to be raised to independence by their mothers (the Vomba young male was forced into independence when his mother died). Since then, and in between, it has only been females that have successfully made the transition to sub-adulthood. So when one considers that the last young male to leave his mother did so over 4 years ago, it is no wonder that we might forget that they often cling on just that little bit longer.
The Ndzanzeni young male however, has been behaving in a way certainly not befitting a leopard of his age. Scent-marking and vocalising, he has been displaying behaviour more characteristic of a newly territorial male, which he certainly is not (he’s only two years old!). Young males are generally tolerated within their fathers’ territories until such time as they approach sexual maturity, but acting the way the young male is, it is unlikely that the Inyathini male – dominant in the area – will tolerate him for that long.
I think this may well be a case of “push until something pushes back”. The Inyathini male has not been in that part of the reserve for some days, and the young male may just be trying his luck. He is after all venturing into areas previously unexplored, most likely following his mother as she encroaches into the deceased Tamboti female’s territory from the south.
This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Dudley Riverbank female in early 2012.
Young bull elephants go through a similar thing; going into musth until they encounter a bigger, older bull in musth which triggers them to fall out of the condition. I think the Ndzanzeni young male may simply be trying his luck, following new found independent urges, until an encounter with his father will most likely force him to take stock and curb the territorial behaviour.
Following on from the earlier post this week in which we looked at the leopards likely to fill in the gaps left by the disappearance of the Tamboti female, it seems that the Nzandzeni female is doing her part to claim her share, and her son – behaving inappropriately and likely to come up short as a result – is simply going along for the ride…