There is something about the northern reaches of Londolozi that always seems to lure you in. While the beauty in the riverine thickets astounds you, keeping your eye on any animal often proves to be a challenge. One particular morning not so long ago was no exception, but as always we were up for the challenge and our patience was rewarded.
We arrived on the banks of the Manyelethi River, where the Xitsalala Male Leopard had been spotted amongst the wild date palms below and had subsequently disappeared as a herd of elephants approached the area. While ranger and tracker duo Keagan Chasenski and Ray Mabilane navigated between the palm thicket below us, we patiently and eagerly used our vantage point from the riverbank to see where he might pop out again. Eventually, we got a brief glimpse as he moved along but were unable to keep our eye on him as he continued to weave his way in and out of sight.
A handsome young male leopard that originates from Ngala in the Timbavati Reserve north of here. He had a sister who made it to independence
With his rather gaunt appearance, we could tell this young male was in need of a good meal and his behaviour suggested he was on the scent of something. At this stage, as a young male exploring unfamiliar land, hunting often becomes challenging and opportunities on the lesser suspected prey need to be taken advantage of. Very unexpectedly, the Xitsalala Male pounced right into a wild date palm and to our astonishment returned with a genet gripped in his jaws. It was an unlucky day for the genet, but the adaptability of a leopard’s diet from antelope to small carnivores and reptiles when times are tough, is a testament to their resilience.
Who is the Xitsalala Male?
The Xitsalala Male (Shangaan for a Gardenia tree), is relatively unknown on the Londolozi blog. He was born at Ngala in the Timbavati Reserve- a private game reserve north of the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, a good 30-40km away as the crow flies. So he has ventured quite some distance to be here. He was born in March/April 2019 making him four and a half now. Although this is not his first appearance on Londolozi, it was my first time seeing this nomadic young male. While sightings have still been infrequent on the northern section of the reserve, we are noticing shifts in the territory of the Flat Rock Male as well as the possible return of the Tortoise Pan Male. There certainly could be an opportunity for the Xitsalala Male to establish a territory for himself, it will be no easy feat given the age and experience of the Flat Rock Male and Tortoise Pan Male.
The genet, though ultimately prey, is a reminder of the intricate balance that defines life and survival in the African wilderness. The Xitsalala Male seized the opportunity and not only was his patience and determination rewarded, but so was ours. While he is likely to continue his stealthy pursuits after larger prey, it will be interesting to see if he continues to spend more time on Londolozi and takes on the next challenge of establishing a territory for himself.