The Tortoise Pan male leopard, still not territorial, yet still hanging around, keeps popping up in sightings unexpectedly. Ranger Guy Brunskill takes us through a remarkable sighting he had of this leopard and some other spotted cats:
We were following the two young cheetahs who had clearly fed recently as they were very full-bellied. They settled down in the shade next to a dry pan, but the male didn’t seem happy and kept looking towards a clearing nearby. Eventually the female got up and walked away, constantly glancing back, while the male went towards the clearing to investigate.
We followed the male, and looking in the direction he was staring, caught sight of a male leopard approaching. He came closer, to within about 50 metres of the male cheetah, by which time we had identified him as the Tortoise Pan male.
Both the leopard and the male cheetah seemed unsure of the situation; both are young, which would go a long way to explaining their respective uncertainties, but neither species would want to act before they had established exactly what was what.
The leopard ran up on a termite mound to get a better view, and all the while the male cheetah was making an odd whining noise, which was most likely some type of attempt at submission, although it’s hard to be sure.
The Tortoise Pan male eventually came down from the mound and advanced to where the cheetahs had been lying earlier. He sniffed around for a bit, most likely hoping to find a kill, but he was to be disappointed. The male cheetah had come in close by now, and after he and the leopard locked eyes and the cheetah had given a brief attempt at a snarl, the Tortoise Pan male suddenly charged, sending the cheetah running. The leopard quickly gave up the chase and the cheetah stopped as well.
From there the two parted ways, having walked parallel to each other for 50 metres or so. With nothing to be gained from staying in the area, the Tortoise Pan male then moved off, with the cheetahs heading in the opposite direction.
We don’t see cheetahs all that often at Londolozi, so to see these two with a leopard joining the sighting was truly special. The most interesting part about it for me was the noise the male cheetah was making, seemingly to placate the leopard. It was such a unique thing to see, I doubt I’ll be hearing a cheetah make that noise again anytime soon…