Rainy and windy conditions, of which we have had a fair amount of late, do not bode well for leopard viewing. The elusive felines often choose to hunker down in thick bushes and shelter themselves until the storm passes. However, there is a silver lining. The first couple days of sunshine following a few rainy days are almost guaranteed to be filled with activity as the bush comes to life once again. Come these sunny days, one of the many things on a leopard’s agenda is to patrol his or her territory. The rains would typically wash away their previous scent marks, which requires them to stake out their boarders again to refortify their turf.
One of my recent guest’s stays involved two days of poor weather and two days of sunny weather, in that order. We struggled for the first two days to find any leopards but, on our second morning, conditions had improved and things were looking promising. As we left camp at sunsrise, we were notified that the tracker academy had found a male leopard on the move quite close to camp. We didn’t hesitate to join them and soon found ourselves with the Senegal Bush male, strolling at a steady pace and scent marking along the way.
The Senegal Bush male is approaching 9 years of age and has been a territorial male in the Sabi Sands for some years now. However he only began to establish himself on Londolozi during the course of mid-late 2019 after being forced from his former grounds further east by another younger male. He arrived at Londolozi relatively skittish and at times even aggressive towards our vehicles, which made viewing him quite a challenge a lot of the time. Despite being a leopard that has been viewed by people his whole life, this behaviour can arise when a dominant male is pushed out of his comfort zone and into an unfamiliar area.
What we have witnessed more recently though is how relaxed he has started to become again around us. This is a clear indication that he has grown to be comfortable in his new territory having ousted the Inyathini male some months ago. This is no surprise though. He has been seen not only to have staked out a prime piece of leopard real estate but has begun to expand on what he already has, now moving further north towards the camps. He has seemingly gained more confidence with having a secure area which has made viewing him a lot easier.
On this particular morning he treated us to a fantastic display of territorial behaviour as he allowed us to stick with him for nearly an hour as scent marked the norther reaches of his territory. He moved swiftly along the two-tracks, avoiding the long grass on its edges and only veering off to rub up against a small bush willow or guarri bush to leave his scent behind. Feeling completely spoilt by what we were experiencing, we soaked up every moment, taking a few photographs and videos to capture the memories.