We set out early one morning with the intention of trying to find a cheetah. As we got closer to where one had been seen the day before we spotted a shape on a termite mound in the distance. I lifted my binoculars, half expecting it to be a log yet secretly hoping it would be the cheetah. To my surprise, and after a double take, it was actually a male leopard.
Our initial thought after the unexpected find was that it was most likely the White Dam Male which is the dominant male in that area of the reserve. As we got closer we were quite surprised to see that is was a much older male and therefore could not be the White Dam Male. Tracker Freddy Ngobeni (who has worked at Londolozi for many many years) instantly recognised the male we were looking at as he had seen him and his brother were cubs. I could definitely tell that is was a male I had never seen before.
It was the Makhotini male.
We sat with him for a while, watching as he slowly moved around the termite mound, quietly checking the entrances of the burrows (presumably warthog burrows) for any sign of an easy meal.
As he moved we could clearly see the many scars all over his body which painted a picture of the life that he has lived.
He soon disappeared into one of the burrows so we looped around to the side of the entrance expecting him to come back out but he was nowhere to be seen.
After about 20 minutes of waiting we were starting to doubt ourselves that he was still in the burrow so we decided to try get a bit closer to shine a spotlight down the hole to see if we could see him. It wasn’t an easy task but eventually we got a small gap where we could see into the hole and about two metres down I just saw the flick of his tail. Eventually, after about an hour of sitting and and waiting, he emerged from the burrow with a bit of blood on the side of his face, which would explain why he was in there for so long. This is the time of year that female warthogs give birth to their young in burrows just like this one and I can only imagine that is what he found down there and took advantage of the easy meal.
Given his age (about 12 years old) and all the scars on his body it is likely that he has started losing control of his territory to a younger male, which is inevitable for any leopard of his age. Having been dominant over the southern section of the Sabi Sand Reserve for the past four or so years but now living a more nomadic lifestyle, it was a pleasant surprise to see him as he hasn’t been seen on Londolozi for a few years now. Hopefully this means we might get to see a bit more of him before his time comes.