We’ll get on to the leopards of the deep south in a week or two; for now let’s concentrate on what’s happening between the Sand River and the prominent Tugwaan Riverbed…
There’s been a whole lot of shifting taking place among both the female and male populations, so let’s look at them separately, Females first.
The defining event over the last two years was probably the death of the Tamboti female. Occupying an area that covered most of east Londolozi, her demise opened up a significant chunk of the reserve which was quickly filled in by smaller leopards that might not have had a sniff otherwise. Hot on the heels of that big change has been the attaining of independence of the Nhlanguleni young females and the Nkoveni young female, and the mothers of both seem to have ceded territory in order to make way for their offspring. To be honest, we aren’t even sure exactly what the two adults in this situation are doing; they both seem to be occupying some sort of limbo in which they’ve been leaving their territories to mate, but then not returning. Let’s go through them:
We wrote about her in the leopard update of the northern parts of Londolozi, and not too much has changed since then, except for one key sighting. She was seen only yesterday a couple of kilometres downstream from camp, way out of her normal territory. If you examine the map above, you’ll see a spot called Fluffy’s Pan. Well the Nhlanguleni female was NE of this, in the Sand River on a Bushbuck kill. I have never seen her that far east before, so either she moved out of her territory to mate with a male and was returning to her normal territory when she made the kill, or she is properly ceding territory to her daughters:
If she is expanding her territory east, it might have something to do with the movements of the Nkoveni female, who we have seen less and less over the past few months. She has been mating with a number of males east of our boundary, and it is quite possible that she has ceded territory to her daughter.
If we push further south we get to the Ximungwe female.
She is still raising a female cub after the Tortoise Pan male sadly killed her male offspring.
Sightings of the Ximungwe female have also been relatively hard to come by of late. In winter, especially one like we are experiencing now which comes on the heels of a poor dry season, we tend to see the leopards frequenting the deeper drainage lines which provide cover, and the Ximungwe female’s territory has no shortage of these. A lot of the areas she’s been moving in make for very hard tracking, so it’s generally only the most persistent tracking efforts through difficult terrain that result in sightings of her.
Further east and south we find the Ximungwe female’s mother, the Mashaba female.
Londolozi’s oldest territorial female is believed to have recently lost a litter of cubs. We suspected she was denning them somewhere in the Inyathini drainage line as she was seen nearby with fresh suckle marks, but since then no tracks of her have been found in the area and it doesn’t look like she has been lactating.
The Mawelawela male was seen in the area, so if the cubs are lost, he is the suspected culprit.
The Mashaba female has probably been our most-viewed female leopard over the last month, quite possibly because her territory features more accessible areas than some of her neighbours.
Related to the Mashaba female – but very distantly – is the Three Rivers Female.
Many will know how she was lucky to survive adolescence after the death of her mother the Xidulu female, and luckily for her, the time when she was first looking to establish territory happened to coincide with the Tamboti female’s death, so there was essentially a free area up for grabs.
She managed to sandwich herself in between the Nkoveni female to the north-west and the Ndzanzeni female to the south, and now occupies a small area on Londolozi close to the Sand River. This leopard is not often seen, but given that she is rapidly approaching the age at which she could start bearing cubs, she could be featuring a bit more prominently in our sightings data over the next year or so.
We’ll start with the Maxim’s male to get him out of the way.
I regret to say I have never actually seen this leopard myself so don’t know the first thing about him. He reportedly came in from the Kruger park and hopefully sticks around. I don’t have a confirmed photo of him but will try and find one so we can run a more detailed feature on him soon. It seems he has been spending time along the Sand River to the east of Londolozi, occasionally venturing in to our eastern sectors.
Abutting up against his territory, and pushing further onto Londolozi almost daily it seems is the Senegal Bush male.
A male originating from the north of the Sabi Sand Reserve, he seems to be encroaching more and more into what until now has been an area controlled by the Inyathini male. This leopard doesn’t look particularly big, so it will be interesting to see what happens in this space.
Th Inyathini male himself continues to roam a big area.
His characteristic short tail and scarred lip are encountered all the way from our southern boundary to right up in the north-east near the Sand River. Although this male looks to be as firmly in control as ever, the encroachment of a number of different males over the last few months has led us to question just how firm a grip on his territory he actually has.
Amongst the biggest concerns is the Mawelawela male.
Like the Maxim’s male, photos of this leopard are hard to come by, as he has a reputation for being very skittish. He has been known to be aggressive towards the Land Rovers, but has relaxed significantly over the last few months, although he still tends to be shy, choosing to move off to a discreet distance and not show himself too readily.
As mentioned above, he is suspected of killing the Mashaba female’s latest litter, but this is as yet unconfirmed.
Further north meanwhile, the Flat Rock male continues to hold sway along the Sand River, being seen regularly to the north and south of its banks, and pushing out his territory in both directions.
The Tortoise Pan male is the last male of the central regions to discuss. He continues to have a question mark hanging over his head. Moving in an area which is meant to belong to the Inyathini male, we still don’t know if he has taken it over or if he is simply being tolerated by his father…
The beauty of the bush is that it can’t be rushed, and so as cliched as it may sound – we shall simply have to await events…