That was the first thought that popped into my head a few days ago when we came across the Senegal Bush male lying in the middle of the road in an area of the reserve that used to be part of the core territory of the Inyathini Male.
Sightings of the Senegal Bush male are not a new thing anymore and we have been seeing him regularly for the better part of a year. However, we can’t really say the same thing for the Inyathini male, and now I couldn’t stop myself from wondering if his days are numbered.
The Inyathini male is roughly 12 years old which would put him about 4 years older than his counterpart.
The reason why we don’t know the exact age difference is because we really do not know anything about where the Inyathini male came from. He was first viewed on Londolozi in 2014 and initially he was rather nervous in the presence of the game viewers.
This led us to speculate that he must have been born somewhere in the Kruger National Park in an area where there weren’t as many game drives going around each day. Luckily for us he soon relaxed enough for us to view him from the vehicles and established a large territory for himself in the majority of the southern and eastern parts of the reserve. With a distinct scar on his lip as a result from a fight he had with the late Piva Male back in 2015 and a tail that is unusually short he is instantly recognizable.
The Senegal Bush male was first seen on Londolozi in 2016 as a young male in the northern parts of the reserve. This was only for a brief period of time before he moved further away and began establishing territory to the east of Londolozi. As he became older, bigger and stronger he began to expand his territory and in 2018 we started to view him once more along the Sand River. By the end of last year he had shifted his territory southwards and began encroaching into the territory of the Inyathini Male and has continued to do so up to now.
Male leopards tend to live to about 15 years in the wild (if they’re lucky) and so it would be safe to say that the Inyathini male is entering into his twilight years. At this stage of his life it would be expected that he would be less confident getting into any physical disputes with younger and stronger males. His best chance of survival would be to relinquish parts of his large territory to the Senegal Bush male and focus his efforts on defending a smaller territory.
This is all theory though and we have seen time and time again how you can never completely write off an elderly leopard. There is most certainly a lot of fight left in him and that survival instinct of his will be stronger now more than ever.
I think this story is far from over and we shouldn’t read too much into the fact that we have not been seeing the Inyathini male as often as we did in the past. Whether we witness it or not there will be more encounters between these two leopards and we will continue to try and wrap our heads around the dynamics that are playing out in front of us and feel compelled to try and explain it.
We get it right sometimes but are also often left very surprised about how these stories end up…