13 Feb

Leopard dynamics- Is the north up for grabs?

The Ntsuntsu male was taking it a bit slow at first this morning. Lying lazily in the tall finger grass. ISO 1250, f6.3, 1/500sec

Ntsuntsu male Leopards movements over the last four days.

The Manyeleti has seen a fair few changes over the last year or so. We’ve experienced one of the worst droughts in living memory! In the last few weeks, we’ve received some much needed rain, and this too has changed things significantly. The only constant though in the African bush, is change. The Northern Manyeleti’s Leopard population is currently going through one of those changes at the moment. We’re experiencing some very interesting dynamics regarding several young males that have moved into the north, and are competing for the territory, which until now we believed was still part of Rhulani’s area. The main players in this drama are the Ntsuntsu male and the Tekwane male. The facilitator in this drama is the absence of the Rhulani male from this part of his territory.

Under the cover of a thicket, Ntsuntsu male Leopard took some time to do some grooming. ISO 1250, f6.3, 1/500sec

This morning, we had a sighting of one of those young males. A male we named the Ntsuntsu male was found in his favorite area, in the north west of the reserve. He’s been the mainstay of our leopard sightings for the last 4 days, after killing a Waterbuck on Rians folly, a few days ago and then turning up to the west this morning. When we initially saw him he was lying in the tall grass, and moved to a termite mound. He wasn’t marking territory or vocalizing, pretty much acting like a young male Leopard should. Stay under the radar, and make your moved when you’re ready.

Making bold steps. Ntsuntsu male Leopard moved west, carefully selecting the right placed to stake his claim on the area. ISO 320, f6.3, 1/500sec

After about 20 minutes he made his move a proved me wrong. He moved west, and confidently started marking as he went. The cheek, I thought, but in reality we haven’t seen Rhulani in these parts for a while now. Why? I think the reason for his abscondence started in August last year. The Beacon male leopard made a resurgent return in the southern parts of Rhulani’s territory, and Rhulani had to deal with the real threat that Beacon posed. This meant that Rhulani spent way more time in the southern part of his massive territory. The time for consolidation had come! And what we’ve seen lately, is Rhulani moving in the core of his territory now and seems to have given up on the north. This has left the door wide open for the 2 young males, to compete and establish themselves.

As we moved with Ntsuntsu, and speculated about the Leopard dynamics in the area, he gave us one parting gift. Being a Leopard, and ever the opportunist, he caught a Crested Francolin, before settling to eat his chicken takeout, under Sable bridge. The next year will prove to be very interesting. Which of the 2 young males will ultimately take control of the north? Will Rhulani make a comeback in the area? It’s bound to be an interesting story, that I have the privilege of telling.