It’s probably time to face facts.
It’s been a couple of weeks since the Anderson male was last seen, and in the last sighting of him he was clearly not in good condition.
When older male leopards are ousted from their territories their decline is usually on an accelerating trajectory, and often within a year to 18 months they will most likely be gone. They are forced to bounce between areas that have other rival males in control, they are consistently avoiding conflict, living day to day simply eking out an existence. We have seen old males forced to raid fish eagles’ nests, chew on monitor lizards, and eat carcasses so old that even the hyenas are put off.
And what we’ve seen in the behaviours of a number of deposed leopards over the years is the same thing we saw in the Anderson male; he took to the River.
The Sand River’s extensive reedbeds and thickets provide the cover he needed to hide from rival predators, and the cover necessary to hunt the surplus prey that abounds along the banks and in the riverbed itself. And this is where the last couple of sightings of him took place.
Unofficially the biggest leopard in the Sabi Sands, the Anderson male is an absolutely enormous individual in north western Londolozi.
One saw him robbed of his nyala kill by the Ntsevu pride, and the second was a couple of days later, only a hundred metres or so away.
In both he was looking scarred, cut, emaciated, and generally battered and bruised. Anything but a leopard in his prime.
We’ve seen the signs too many times before to delude ourselves. These were images of a male leopard very close to the end.
All we can hope is that when the end came, it was quick.
What happens in the territory he left behind north of the River we’ll only properly work out over the next 6 months or so, so for now we’ll simply make our peace with the fact that one of Londolozi’s – and the greater Sabi Sand Reserve’s – biggest and most enigmatic leopards has left us.