In the harsh world of nature in which a happy ending is a rarity, every so often an animal does catch a break.
The Flat Rock male’s arrival at Londolozi, at a time when he was probably too young and small to compete for territory, happened to coincide with a territory being up for grabs (the dominant male had just been killed by lions), and he managed to slot in without too much bother – at least none that we could see – and started eking out his existence.
A dominant male leopard over the majority of the north. He originally took over the 4:4 Male's territory when he died.
At first he was confined to a relatively small area for a territorial male; the section of the reserve west of camp and north of the Maxabene River was the only area we used to encounter him. But as he grew, and as his conspecifics shifted their territories and a couple of them met their demise, his territory expanded until at the start of Lockdown this year he was being encountered all the way from just north of the Maxabene to the north-central parts of Londolozi:
Research has shown that male leopards will regularly undergo a double-shuffle in their lives. Their initial dispersal from their natal area moves them to where they are unlikely to encounter related females, which thus strengthens the genetic pool. But then later in life – often at around 9-10 years old – they will sometimes shift territories again. This is also theorised to be driven by genetics. By this stage of their lives, it is likely that they will have mated with the resident females, and surviving daughters will have started approaching mating age. In other words, an increasing proportion of the young females a dominant male encounters will be genetically related. This isn’t a train-smash in the leopard world as inbreeding can occur and isn’t too harmful for only one generation, but in order to maintain a healthy gene-pool, it is better if dispersal takes place. More often than not this will be taken care of through a shift in the male’s territory.
Obviously it isn’t as cut-and-dried as this; several other factors are involved, like the potential for expansion or shifting based on neighbouring males, sex ratio of a male’s offspring (ie. the actual genetic pressure) among others, but this secondary shift has been well documented.
Recently, the Flat Rock male has been seen further and further north, and not two nights ago was found scent-marking along Londolozi’s northern boundary.
His motivation for being there may not be a simple territorial shift; the Tortoise Pan male has been popping up in the north of Londolozi, and being much younger than and unrelated to the Flat Rock male, would not be tolerated. The rangers and trackers are all hoping the Tortoise Pan male does get pushed out, as he represents a grave danger to the Makomsava cubs.
Born in 2016, this male spent his early years in the south-east of Londolozi, but began moving further afield in late 2019.
Whatever the reason for the Flat Rock male’s northwards push, two things are becoming increasingly evident:
- We are seeing him less.
- When we do see him it is usually north of the river.
In 2010 the Marthly Male started pushing south from the Northern Sabi Sand Reserve, eventually establishing territory across central Londolozi.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something similar from the Flat Rock male, just in reverse.
Interesting. I also hope that the Tortoise pan male get pushed out. It is nature, but it will be sad if he kill the cubs.
Thanks James for the detailed explanation on male leopards dynamics. Surely you’ve witnessed interesting occurrences
Very interesting regarding the shifting around of the males for genetic reasons …. this is an education for me…the killing of the Cubs is tough for me to handle emotionally … I understand why but Nature has two sides ….for every living thing ….the mating process …..wow – there is nothing gentle and loving about that to me or it doesn’t seem so from the photos ….come to think of it …. I met a few males in my younger days .. ho hummm brings back memories!!! Thanks – I always enjoy your wonderful and informative pictures, stories. Regards. Leslie L. Kaye
Tortoise Pan and Flat Rock-we had incredible sightings of each.
Thanks for the interesting informationgoing back to 2010.
I’m with you all..I hope the Tortoise Pan male gets the push..certainly don’t want to hear that the Makomsava cub’s may be in danger. 🙏
I think Flat Rock is approaching 7, so I guess he’s pretty much in his prime. If he does push further north, which other males is he likely to encounter (aside from Tortoise Pan)? I’ve rather lost track of who is where, but I think the Senegal Bush male is more central and east? – is Hosana still seen in the north?
Noooo, I don’t want Tortoise Pan to find Makhomsava’s cubbies! Are you thinking that her cubs are Flat Rock’s? Will he push more north in order to protect that space and his cubs?
Is the Flat Rock male the father of the Makomsava’s cubs? Are those cubs safer if he shifts his territory northward?
Interesting. At the moment how many males have territories on Londolozi? Must be 4-5 if that?
This was really interesting. Thanks. Isn’t Hosana on the property north of Londolozi and would Flat Rock pose a threat to pushing him?
James, I loved all the photos, I saved the leopard Flat Rock Male🤗
James, isn’t the Flat Rock Male also being seen more east as well or am I overestimating how frequently he is seen east of Londolozi?
Highly informative and equally intriguing post James. Is there any typical timeline for this type of transition based on the maturation of the Flat Rock male? Additionally, are there other signs you’ll be looking for based the behaviors of previously aging male leopards? Let us know and please keep us posted!
Interesting news about both the Flat Rock male and the Tortoise Pan male. Sorry to hear the latter is such a menace to cubs, as he was the first leopard I saw at Londolozi and fell in love with him at the small pan, whilst he was stalking a lone hippo. That aside, I understand the nature of a young male who if he smells or sees cubs not related to him, will kill them. Has he mated with any of the on site females? There’s always something new within the Londolozi borders.
James that was such an interesting and informative read. I’ve often wondered how lions, leopards, cheetahs ensure a healthy genetic pool while maintaining territorial dominance. Fabulous shots as well!
Ok, James I do have a few questions..
The 4:4 male from 2016. you mention (I read the article) do you know if he’s the father of any of the active leopards now in Londolozi?
And connected with yesterdays article – do you have ever after seen the impala ewe with horns that had been seen in beginning of this year?
James, do you ever see the Hukumuri male leopard anymore…isnt his territory just north of londolozi?
Thanks for this interesting insight into male leopards’ behavior. I like the picture of the Tortoise Pan male, he looks so cute.
James, That makes total sense and we agreee that for the Flat Rock, it is probably his safest move. We have so many photos of him and will miss seeing his powerful physique! Plus, let’s hope those cubs stay safe!
Great trail cam capture!
He is my favourite male leopard of Londolozi and I loved this reserve after learning his story. Saw a video of his battle vs Maxim for Nkoveni and it was breathtaking. This time he knows well what he does. A tactic fighter and a real knight! I hope Makomsava’s cubs will stay safe.