It had been two weeks of not seeing the Senegal Bush Male. The rangers and trackers at Londolozi were starting to get worried about where he was. Was he expanding his territory and just moving around unnoticed? Was he injured? Or, had he been killed by something else, maybe a lion? We tried our best to try and find him but no clear signs of him, only the odd track here and there.
One morning, Ranger Kirst Joscelyne called in tracks of a male leopard and that she had heard a leopard calling in a nearby thick area. This was it! It had to be the Senegal Bush Male based on where the tracks were and he was somewhere close! We searched for about two hours but we just could not find him, it felt like he was doing circles around us!
We were torn and did not want to give up but after a long tracking mission, we decided to return again that afternoon to see what we could come up with, but still nothing…
The next morning we tried again!!! Only to find tracks of him in the Sand River in an area we could not access with the vehicle. He remained impossible to find.
Two days later we heard the low rumbling growl that escalates into a loud crescendo of two leopards mating in the Sand River. Determined to find him this time, we drove along the Sand River and there, right in the middle of the river was the Senegal Bush Male with the Nkuwa Female.
Where has he been?
Our first thought was maybe he had gone further west in his territory to find the Nkuwa Female that could have been calling for a mate. Often when female leopards go into oestrus they will call for a mate and he might of heard this or detected this in her urine where she had scent-marked.
It was only when we looked through our binoculars we noticed he had a number of gashes and wounds, one on his flank, one on his shoulder, one on his inner thigh and one on the top of his head. I never managed to get any photos of the wounds but, maybe he was in a fight and taking some time to recover.
In the meantime, the two were in the process of mating, which holds some exciting prospects of there being new cubs around in the next three to three and a half month time. The Nkuwa Female was raising some cubs to the west of Londolozi, which I guess we can now confidently say that she must have sadly lost them due to the fact that she was now mating again.
Normally leopards would be together for between four and five days while they are mating where they mate on average every 20 minutes or so. But what we found interesting was that the next day, the two leopards were no longer together, tracks of both of them were going in different directions. So maybe they had been together in the River mating for longer than we thought and not further west in his territory searching for the Nkuwa Female.
He went off the radar for further two days until he was found with another leopard! This time it was a male, The Maxim’s Male. They were both growling, salivating and scuffing the ground scent marking what could be seen as the territorial boundary between the two. They chased each other around attempting to show signs of dominance over each other. There was no physical contact between the two that we saw and both walked away seemingly retreating into their respective territories afterwards.
So this got me thinking, if he was injured from a fight with another leopard, who could it have been? If it was a fight with the Maxim’s Male, where were the Maxim’s Male’s injuries, and if the Maxim’s Male had won the previous fight and avoided sustaining any injuries, then the Senegal Bush Male would be a lot more submissive.
The following morning, we found him doing his normal territorial patrol where he then got chased up a fallen marula tree by three hyenas.
The story will never be known as to exactly where he was or how he sustained the injuries. We can only try to guess what could of happened to The Senegal Bush Male and this is also why I love nature, you do not know everything when it comes to animals. Maybe it was a fight? Maybe it was a hunting injury? Who knows? I am just happy to see that he is back and alive! One thing is for sure, The Senegal Bush Male has had a tough month, or maybe that is just the life of a leopard?