After spending time at Londolozi and in the bush, every ranger finds themselves invested in the animals and the happenings of the lodge long after they leave. Curiously seeking out any information on the latest dynamics among the predators. Recently, I bumped into alumni ranger Dean de la Rey, who spent a good four years here and still finds himself invested in what is going on at Londolozi. After catching up and comparing some stories, he asked a few questions which triggered an idea in my mind. So much can change in a short space of time and so I thought a general update on the current situation could help catch everyone up.
“The North, I miss the Leadwood Forest, which male leopard/s are dominant now?
For those of you lucky enough to have visited Londolozi you will understand everyone’s infatuation with this part of the reserve. The scenery, diversity in terrain, sheer beauty and a somewhat wilder feeling about it. The blocks are large with fewer roads between them, so we never really know what has been going on there and so the anticipation of not knowing what is around the next corner makes this place so special to me.
Getting straight to the point, the Flat Rock Male automatically springs to mind as the majority of the north falls within his territory. Stretching from just south of the Sand River all the way through the North and even reaches further than our northern boundary. Although in the last few months, the Senegal Bush Male has been seen venturing further and further into the north on a number of occasions. Although this has been the case when the Flat Rock Male has been in the northern parts of his territory, so we are yet to see a territorial dispute between these two males but I’m sure one is imminent.
A dominant male leopard over the majority of the north. He originally took over the 4:4 Male's territory when he died.
I understand that the Nstevu pride have had a crazy time, are we seeing them or another pride settle more of the central parts of Londolozi and what’s that dynamic?
As we know the Ntsevu Pride was initially six mothers that gave birth to 13 cubs. The pride was enormous and likely to split. With the arrival of the Ndzhenga Males, the demise of the Birmingham Males, and the cubs reaching the age of independence we have seen the pride go through all sorts of changes. Two mothers broke away with the last of the Birmingham Cubs, of which there are two left. These four have been sneaking beneath the radar as best as they can to avoid the Ndzhenga Males or any other conflict.
The other four females have been mating with the Ndzhenga Males and three have already had and lost cubs and have been seen mating again. So we should see a few more cubs in the coming months. The original 12 subadults (six males and six females) have split up and are seen in all sorts of arrangements. Some of the older females are being seen with their mothers. The younger females are seen with their brothers. While some of the older males are spending time in the Kruger National Park. It will be interesting to see where these lions end up settling.
Not that I had a favourite leopard to view but let’s talk about the Ximungwe young male?
The Ximungwe Young Male has provided us with such great viewing over the last year and a bit. And although he is still hanging around in his mother’s territory, he is now basically independent, and along with that independence comes a lot of changes. The most prominent change will be a change in territory, it will be a very sad day when it does happen, as male leopards tend to move large distances when trying to establish their own territories. It will be an exciting time for him, yet very tough, as he will start to face the challenges of venturing into the solitary life that leopards live. In turn, it will be a very sad day for us as rangers as he will most likely head far beyond the reaches of Londolozi. Along with independence comes a change in name which we will let you know about in the very near future.
Understanding that nothing is ever a given and things are forever changing, what is going on with the male leopards and their territories?
In recent times the male leopard dynamics around central Londolozi have been extremely interesting. With new pressure from the Maxim’s Male in the eastern parts as he expands his territory further west. This expansion of territory by the Maxim’s Male has a rather large knock-on effect on other male leopards due to his sheer strength and ability to dominate an area. This has caused the Senegal Bush Male to shift further west. Rangers Dan, Robbie and Jess got a front-row seat to an unbelievable encounter that these two males had, Robbie actually documented this territorial standoff.
Fairly skittish male that is presumed to have come from the Kruger National Park.
Along with the westerly shift by the Senegal bush Male, he has also been seen venturing further into the northern parts of the reserve. In turn, this shift has potentially caused the Flat Rock Male to expand and shift its territory further north.
In the western sector of our reserve, although sightings of him are fairly infrequent, I believe the Mawelawela Male is still dominant. However, in very recent times we are hearing reports of the Mawelawela Male moving a lot further south as well.
Began as a fairly unrelaxed leopard in the southwestern parts of the reserve. Now providing great viewing in the open grasslands
Lastly, it’s not all about the animals, how’s the land looking? Coming out of the dry season, is the Sand River still flowing?
My first winter experience at Londolozi has been nothing short of spectacular. I loved how vastly the land can change between the seasons. With the late rains we received in May, it took longer than usual for the bush to get to those amazing shades of brown that is synonymous with winter in the Lowveld.
We eventually got to experience those beautiful colours, along with the winter shades, sunrises and sunsets never disappointed and is something I look forward to sharing with guests daily. With the end of the dry season now here the Sand River has been a vital source of water throughout. On a hot winter’s day, there is always something to be found down by the river, whether it be a herd of elephant wallowing or the diverse aquatic bird life.
Heading into the summer months the scenery is going to quickly change and I am extremely looking forward to all that summer brings along with it.
Hopefully, this answers some of the questions you as readers may have had as well. Keep an eye out for another similar update in a few months’ time.