How long will the Inyathini male last?
That’s the question on the minds of many in the Ranger and Tracker team, as the ageing male leopard continues to move down obscure pathways and be found in areas he hasn’t patrolled before. Will he be gone by mid-year or will he make it through to 2021? Leopards – I’m sure – live day to day and don’t plan for the season ahead, but still, we can’t help but wonder how different the male leopard population of Londolozi might be in 12 months time.
We’ll leave that continued speculation for now, and dive right into the variety that defines the bush during Summer.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Summer is the time of the smaller creatures, and this Flap-necked Chameleon crossing one of the service roads behind the Londolozi camps had a number of people on their bellies trying to get photographs of it before it disappeared back into the thickets.
The Senegal Bush Male now seems to have firmly established himself in central Londolozi, as the Inyathini male heads further and further down the road towards being past his prime.
Initially seen as a young male in 2016, this leopard only properly established territory on Londolozi in mid-2019
Many raptors – like this Juvenile Bateleur – are seen on the ground after the rains, taking advantage of the boom in insects – in particular termites – that offer a bounty of protein.
The local zebra population will be benefitting the most from the rain and its accompanying grass boom, being exclusively grazers and having come through what was a particularly harsh dry season.
One of the few cheetahs we see in Londolozi enjoys the last of the evening light. In the long grass currently prevailing in the south-west (the area we usually find cheetahs), the world’s fastest land mammal has been proving increasingly difficult to find.
Small mammals are vulnerable to predation from a number of creatures, particularly large birds of prey like Martial Eagles. As a result they are particularly wary when poking their heads above ground, usually making very sure its safe to venture forth before emerging fully.
Silhouette shots like this are subtly evocative of the shy nature of leopards.
Wildebeest gather on one of the grassy crests that define the hillsides to the south and east of the Londolozi Camps. Being grazers, they and zebra are regularly found in the clearings where food is plentiful and visibility is good.
The rivalry between hyenas and lions is not underplayed, but in some areas the two species tend not to interact that much. In Londolozi, where a high density of leopards provides ample carcasses for hyenas to scavenge off, the hyenas tend to stick well clear of lions, unless a large carcass draws them in and they have the numbers to take on the big cats, as in this photo when they had driven off one of the Mhangene young males.
When the lions moved off, the hyenas immediately rolled in to claim what was left of the Mhangeni pride’s waterbuck kill.
The Ximungwe female makes use of a fallen log to better scope out a herd of impala up ahead. Thick vegetation in her territory means she has to take advantage of every vantage point possible to monitor potential hunting opportunities up ahead.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
The Village weavers continue to nest as the grass continues to flourish.
Innocent Ngwenya, a Tracker Academy graduate with an amazing life story, will be fondly known to many who have visited Londolozi over the years. Innocent has now taken on the role of Tracker Academy trainer, filling the shoes of his own mentor and Tracker Academy co-founder Renias Mhlongo.
The Ximungwe female and her ever-growing male cub, who is now almost the same size as her. It is likely that he will be fully independent by the end of the year, if not sooner.
The very latest edition to the Leopards of Londolozi…
An Ntsevu female leads a Birmingham male down the road, trailed at a respectful distance by ranger Pete Thorpe.