Over the last few months, we’ve been seeing new, unknown leopards on safari. It’s exciting, but not particularly surprising given that Lion Sands share an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park.
Many of these leopards are young dispersing animals. Once leopards are of age (usually between one and three years old) they move out of the areas where they were born to establish their own territories. If their parents are tolerant, females may be able to stay or share a range with their mothers, while young males are generally less tolerated by resident males.
A recent study by Panthera, one of the world’s foremost experts on big cats, revealed that the population density in the south of the Sabi Sands (where Lion Sands is located) is a whopping 11.9 leopards per 100km 2! This is amongst the highest ever recorded for the species, giving Sabi Sands the highest density of leopards in the world.
A few months ago, we started seeing a new, young female in the area. She was first spotted one morning close to River and Ivory lodges, posing beautifully on the rocks. That afternoon, she successfully hunted a monkey, and was seen on both the day’s game drives. Two days later, she was found up in a sausage tree with an impala kill. Unfortunately, it was later pillaged by one of our resident leopards. Not long after, she was also viewed from the deck of Ivory Lodge hunting bushbuck!
We don’t come across her regularly and will wait to see if the resident female leopards will allow her to stay or chase her off to find another vacant territory. She has already had a confrontation with one, Ndzilo. During an afternoon game drive, Field Guide Monique Dermauw and Tracker Tony Sibuyi spotted her in the very top of a tree. She was snarling at something below – Ndzilo, keeping a close watch on her from the ground.
Monique recounted that in a flash – the fastest she’d ever seen a leopard scale a tree – Ndzilo shot up to confront her and a snarling session ensued. Both were visibly stressed and frothing at the mouth. This was Ndzilo’s way of letting the younger female know that this territory is taken. After some time, Ndzilo finally descended and left her to quickly leave, unharmed but hopefully with a lesson learned.
Words by: Field Guide Luke Abbot
Photos by: Field Guide Franscois Rosslee
Post courtesy of Lion Sands
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