With the Sand River historically acting very much like our own version of The Wall from Game of Thrones, we used to find that it acted as a convenient territorial boundary for the leopards that inhabited its banks.
With the river not flowing as strongly as it has in years past – levels have been particularly low since 2015 – it seems that the territorial lines have become a bit more blurred, as crossing the river can simply be a matter of stepping over a narrow channel, or at the most, hopping between a couple of rocks.
Leopards that used to stay in the north have pushed south and vice versa, and we have been seeing encroachments from all points of the compass, so we want to give a brief run-down of who’s who beyond the Sand River:
Ingrid Dam Female
One of Londolozi’s least documented leopards, the Ingrid Dam female was presumed to have been born to the skittish Ximpalapala female, sometime around 2008-2009.
She has already successfully raised two female offspring, but her litter from earlier this year seems to be no more, as no sign of a cub has been had in the north-western areas for some time now, and we have seen her venturing far south of the river to mate with the Flat Rock male.
Sightings have been few and far between over the last few months, so our hope is that she may be secreting a new litter somewhere.
Formerly one of the North’s most viewed leopards, this female has ceded territory to her daughter the Makomsava female and is not often seen these days. She inhabits the extensive Bushwillow thickets of the north-east, and we see her maybe once every two weeks, if that.
The daughter of the Nanga female – and the only one of that female’s offspring to survive thus far – the Makomsava female seems to have had a propitious start to independence, essentially being gifted her mother’s territory. Through what mechanisms this took place we aren’t too sure, all we know is that she has suddenly become one of the most prominent leopards in the North, occupying territory all along the Manyelethi River.
The dominant female along most of the Sand River’s northern bank on Londolozi, and south of it to the west of camp, the Nhlanguleni female can officially now be said to have raised her latest litter to independence. She has been mating with the Flat Rock male on and off for a few weeks, so it seems as though she is ready to reproduce again, and her two daughters are almost never seen with her anymore. This in itself is a huge cause for celebration, given that this is the first time an intact litter has been successfully raised since the Nhlanguleni female herself reached independence with her brother.
Formerly the dominant male over almost the entire northern sector of Londolozi, the huge Anderson male seems to be losing his hold on a lot of it. Having been in a number of scuffles with both the Hosana and Hukumuri males (the Hukumuri male interaction is presumed based on wounds and tracks), this massive leopard might be on the downward slope to being ousted from his territory.
Flat Rock Male
The Flat Rock male was very lucky when he arrived on Londolozi, as a territory was up for grabs thanks to the recent demise of the 4:4 male, who had died of wounds inflicted by the Ntsevu Pride.
The Flat Rock male – only young at the time – established himself into a small corner in west Londolozi which he steadily expanded as he has grown, and we now see him pushing further and further into the Anderson male’s patch to the north of the Sand River. He also recently fought with the Inyathini male, and rangers reported that it was very much the Inyathini male who got the worst of the encounter…
Senegal Bush Male
A relatively unknown leopard on Londolozi, the Senegal Bush male spends the majority of his time east of our reserve, but has started being seen more and more along the Sand River, and is occasionally found up in our north-east.
We know he has been mating extensively with the Nkoveni female (who, like the Nanga female, also seems to be ceding territory to her daughter), but he has yet to make any serious encursions into the area controlled by the Flat Rock male. If the Anderson male truly loses his grip on the North, the Senegal Bush male may well move in from the east.
One of the biggest question marks in our leopard population at the moment. He didn’t get assigned an area on the territorial map as technically he is still territorial to the north of Londolozi.
The Hukumuri male came striding onto our reserve one day, and promptly lost an eye and had half his ear ripped off.
He is still pushing south around the Manyelethi, but it’s quite possible that his injuries might rein in his territorial ambitions somewhat.
We haven’t included this male on the territory map above, as he is not yet territorial, and seems only to be prospecting, as it were. Sniffing around and testing the scent of other leopards, without yet scent-marking himself, it almost seems like he’s biding his time.