One leopard we have not seen for quite some time now is the Inyathini Male. In years past, he was a regular presence across Londolozi and was territorial over almost the entire central and eastern parts of the reserve, south of the Sand River.
Tracking this leopard could sometimes take many hours, spaced across a couple of game drives. He could quite comfortably cover over 10km throughout the course of the night whilst patrolling his territory. Of the known leopards across the Sabi Sand region, I would be surprised if any of the males currently hold territory as large as the Inyathini Male once did. We worked it out to be roughly 50 square kilometres in extent, in what we would consider to be prime habitat for leopards.
Male leopards have huge territories, throughout which they need to maintain their physical presence. This is done via scent marking or vocalizing (rasping). Any ‘vacant’ areas will be encroached upon by other males, which means they will go to great lengths to patrol their territories no matter the obstacles across the terrain – as can be seen by the photograph above.
Typically, males will base their territories on trying to encompass as many female territories as possible. This explains a great deal as to why the Inyathini Male’s territory was so large. During his time as a territorial male, he managed to leave quite a legacy – siring a number of different litters of cubs with multiple females within his territory. Perhaps even beyond his territory too.
Many a season has passed since then and times have changed now. As surely as night follows day, old age will follow youth, and a successor their predecessor. As the years ticked by, we witnessed the rapid recession of his once enormous domain, to a thin strip on either side of the Sand River, around the Dudley Riverbank area. Younger, powerful males of a new era, such as the Nweti Male, Senegal Bush Male and Maxims Male forced him into the confines of a shy, secretive existence where keeping a low profile was the goal of each day. It would only be a matter of time before he would come face to face with his final foe.
Following the natural order of the wild, we’re quite certain that The Inyathini Male’s existence has finally come to an end. Interestingly, one of the last confirmed sightings of him was after he had discovered some of the den sites that the Ntsevu lionesses had been using whilst raising their very first litters of cubs with the Ndzhenga Male Lions. If you just think about how pivotal a moment in the history of lion dynamics that was – an old male leopard, living out the last of his twilight days, wipes out an entire generation of lion cubs belonging to the most dominant coalition in the Londolozi region. Simply some food for thought as to how things unfold out here. But also symbolic of the Inyathini Male leaving a big presence wherever he goes. This leopard has provided Rangers, Trackers and guests alike with almost a decade of leopard viewing on Londolozi.
Although his time on this earth has come and gone, his legacy continues to live on through the lineages of current leopards on Londolozi. If one simply considers the power of ‘the butterfly effect’, you can imagine how huge of a role this leopard played in laying the foundations for present-day dynamics and populations of not only leopards but many other animals across the Greater Kruger region. He certainly won’t be forgotten.