As old as time itself has been the constant ebb and flows of territories among the Leopards of Londolozi. With this in mind we still catch ourselves being surprised with how drastic and rapid some of these shifts in the male territories can be. Seeing leopards in areas where we haven’t seen them before, and it really is providing some interesting sightings.
Leopard dynamics are constantly changing on Londolozi. Currently, we are witnessing this firsthand now with the Senegal Bush Male. Originally territorial over the southeastern parts of Londolozi, he has begun shifting further northwest towards the Sand River due to the incessant pressures from the Maxim’s Male. Male leopards are constantly searching and attempting to expand their territory.
In essence the larger the territory, the greater chance of them covering more females who they will hope to mate with and sire cubs. Although it may seem as though the Senegal Bush Male has lost ground by moving away from the Maxim’s Male, this is not necessarily a loss for him. As he loses ground to the east, he gains ground to the north and west as he expands into a portion of the Flat Rock Male’s territory. An area that has many different females for him to mate with and sire as many cubs as possible.
The Flat Rock Male who initially happened upon the territory around the Londolozi camp after the demise of the Robson’s Male, has since shifted further north to claim the late Anderson Male’s territory. Now with such a large territory, the Flat Rock Male does not pass through the areas near to camp as frequently as he used to, leaving the prime territory somewhat vacant for the Senegal Bush Male to move in and occupy. With the shifts north by the Senegal Bush Male, many rangers have been speculating as to when will he eventually cross the Sand River and be seen in the north.
While out on a morning game drive, we decided to go in search of a leopard. Finding fresh tracks of a male leopard, spurred our spirits along. Based on the area in which we first found the tracks and the direction they were going, we quickly assumed that they must be from the Senegal Bush Male while he was on a territorial patrol. This means that even though the tracks look fresh the leopard could have already put a fair amount of distance between these tracks and himself, due to the steady pace he was likely walking at.
Not long into our mission and the tracks now heading north towards the Sand River some way west of the Londolozi camps, Tracker Dorence turned to me and said,
“Pat, I think this leopard might cross the river.”
The guests could see the excitement in our eyes and that energy permeated everyone in the vehicle as we started picking up the pace to make sure we got him before reaching the river. There is something about the union of animals and water that we as humans find fascinating. Whether it be animals having a drink, moving around water, playing within the water or in this case our hopes were so high to witness a leopard crossing the river.
Although a rather tall order in this particular case as the majority of the river frontage near to us is not accessible with a vehicle.
Shortly after, Ranger Tayla Brown who had joined in on the search and had looped up ahead helping cover more ground managed to find the Senegal Bush Male and promptly let us know that he was approaching the river.
Thankfully we were near one of the crossing points, known as Taylor’s Crossing, which is characterised by an abundance of exposed bedrock. Our best bet was to wait in the actual crossing itself as the rock banks make any offroading near the river’s edge in the area extremely tricky.
The anticipation throughout both vehicles could be felt. He could reach the river and decide to not cross, or turn and head away from where we were waiting, or even cross somewhere out of sight for us.
After waiting for what felt like an eternity he popped out and started towards the river. With our vehicle perfectly positioned we had a great view of him, should he decide to cross the river. After a while of contemplating, he took his first step toward the water. Our prayers had been answered. Before we knew it, he took the leap trying his best to avoid the dreaded waters that were below him. Landing on the other side of the channel, not so gracefully I might add, he slinked off into the tickets and that was that.
It was all over in a flash. What felt like an eternity of a build-up was over before we knew it but what we had all just witnessed was something to behold and a moment in time I will remember forever. As mentioned above, the ever-shifting territories make the leopard dynamics and viewing very interesting. Let’s hope that the Senegal Bush Male’s never-ending quest for more territory continues to deliver sightings like this.
A dominant male leopard over the majority of the north. He originally took over the 4:4 Male's territory when he died.