Newly-named Leopards of MalaMala

The leopard dynamics of MalaMala make for interesting reading. We have been able to document the ancestry of these special creatures over the past few decades, with the result that we have records of all the leopards that move through MalaMala.

Last month we had a number of leopards that earned themselves the privilege of being named. This implies that the leopard has established itself on the property, and is regularly viewed. We have named quite a few new male leopards. These are mostly young males that are cashing in on the fragments of the large territory that the Emsagwen male left behind after he disappeared in 2011. There are also two female leopards that were named, both familiar faces that we have been seeing for some time. Hopefully this will help to shed some light on these name changes. We welcome any information on some of the leopards that have come from other areas.

Charleston male by Matt Meyer

Charleston male by Matt Meyer

Charleston male

Date of Birth: July 2006

Mother: Dudley female

Father: Bicycle Crossing male

This male leopard was born to the Dudley female, and was part of the same litter as the well-known Airstrip male. Fathered by one of the favorite sons of MalaMala, the Bicycle Crossing male, he has done well to establish himself in the very southern parts of the reserve. Last month he was seen mating with an unknown female leopard in that area. This is great news as it is a good indication of his stature and coming of age. Since his core territory is very far from the camps, he is seldom seen. Although he is not as relaxed as his northern brother is, they bear a striking resemblance. There are a number of female leopards that also reside on Charleston, which is good news for this male. Lion populations are low in the area which also makes it attractive real estate. There are, however, many hyenas in that region and it is likely that he will battle with them throughout his life.

Princess Alice Pans male by Matt Meyer

Princess Alice Pans male by Gary Hill

Princess Alice Pans male

Date of Birth: December 2000

Mother: Tavangume female

Father: Wallingford male

This leopard is a huge specimen and must surely rank as one of the biggest of leopards that roam the Sabi Sands. His tracks could even be mistaken for those of a lioness, if not closely inspected. He was born in the western parts of Sabi Sands to a mother and father that we are not familiar with. He was previously known as “the large male leopard from Sparta”, and is known by our neighbors as the “Camp Pan male” or “Xmobonyane”. The core territory of this leopard is not on MalaMala, although he is frequently seen around the airstrip and surrounds. He is very careful not to venture any further east than the airstrip, and it is seldom recorded that he moves as far as the Sand River. This is a wise choice as he has already come off second-best in a run-in with the Airstrip male. Although the Airstrip male is far smaller, he was able to intimidate the Princess Alice Pans male and was the victor in that encounter. This large male has had a successful and impressive career, has fathered many litters over the years, and has a proud bloodline. One might say that he is getting on in years and is only going to decline from here on, but he is not showing any signs of this at present. The Tamboti female has recently preferred to court the Princess Alice Pans male over the Airstrip male.

West Street male by Matt Meyer

West Street male by Matt Meyer

West Street male

Date of Birth: April 2009

Mother: Ravenscourt female

Father: Unknown

We first started to have sightings of this male as a relative youngster, in mid-2011. He had a tendency to hang around the West Street Bridge, and was particularly fond of resting on the concrete pillars of the now fallen bridge. He will be happy to know that construction of the new bridge is likely to commence soon! He is a beautiful leopard and very photogenic. Combining these qualities with his relaxed nature, he is fast becoming a favorite leopard to view. He was born to the Ravenscourt female, who is well known to the west, and had a twin brother in the same litter who was killed by another male leopard at a young age. The West Street male travelled some distance from his place of birth in the western parts of Sabi Sands. This is not unusual behavior, as once young male leopards become independent, they need to become nomadic in order to establish a territory of their own. This is achieved by challenging a male already established in the area, or adopting an area that is vacant. There is high competition among male leopards around the West Street Bridge area – the Airstrip male being the main competitor there – and the West Street male has done well to avoid any conflict with him. He has however had a few encounters with another young male leopard that is nervous of vehicles, and lives around the Tamboti Thickets. All of these encounters were easily won by the West Street male, and no serious fighting took place. More serious encounters have taken place between the West Street male and the Newington male, another male who is still trying to establish his territory. The Princess Alice Pans male, the father of the Newington male, has also had a run-in with the West Street male, where the younger male was caught in a surprise ambush and made a speedy getaway without injury. Although we have been seeing the West Street male for some time now, it is only recently that he has begun to get a firm grip on his territory. His current domain extends from the west of Flockfield Tower, eastwards across the Sand River to the Buffalo Pans and the White Cloth. He ventures as far north as the Old Airstrip, and his southern boundary is below Rattrays Camp.

Newington Male by Roan Ravenhill

Newington Male by Roan Ravenhill

Newington male

Date of Birth: October 2008

Mother: Western female

Father: Princess Alice Pans male or Bicycle Crossing male

Previously known to us as the “son of the Sparta female 2008”, this male will now be known as the Newington male. There was previously a leopard known as the Newington male, who is now presumed dead, and makes way for this young male. It is unknown who fathered him, as his mother was seen to be mating with both the Bicycle Crossing male and Princess Alice Pans male.

The Newington male has a brother that is seldom seen, that still lives in the territory of their mother. The paths of these leopards could not be more different, with the Newington male preferring a nomadic life while actively seeking a territory. His battles with the West Street male have been the most significant. There have been two encounters between these two young males recently, both taking place around Flockfield Tower. The first incident was evenly matched and it appeared that the West Street male might have gained ascendancy, while the second encounter included the Tamboti female, who was trying to mate with either of the males. Neither was interested in the female as they were preoccupied with their competition. A few days later, the West Street male had moved off and the Newington male was mating with the female, which suggests that he may have won that battle. We will watch how the Newington male develops with interest.

Hogvaal male by Matt Meyer

Hogvaal male by Matt Meyer

Hogvaal male

Date of Birth: April 2006

Mother: Western female

Father: Bicycle Crossing male

This male is the older brother of the Newington male and is yet another leopard fathered by the Bicycle Crossing male. The territory of this leopard extends from the Kapen River to the Matshipiri River, and he is most commonly seen around the Emsagwen Waterhole. He ventures as far north as Buffalo Bush Dam, and possibly as far east as in the Kruger National Park, and he is well established in these areas. We have yet to see this male with any female company, although he could be the father of the most recent litter of the Matshipiri female, who shares some of the same regions with him. The Hogvaal male had a recent interaction with the Kikilezi female, who was quick to move off after she passed some snarls and growls in the direction of the male. This is the southernmost part of the Kikilezi females’ kingdom, and she may just seek out this male in the future.

Gowrie Male leopard by Matt Meyer

Gowrie Male leopard by Matt Meyer

Gowrie male

Date of Birth: 2005/6

Mother: Unknown

Father: Unknown

We estimate that this male is about five or six years old. When we first began to see this leopard he was quite nervous, but he has since relaxed in our company. We are unable to establish where this male may have come from, hence do not know his history. The fact that he was nervous suggests that he has perhaps moved in from the Kruger National Park, or an area where he has not been viewed too much in the past. He is a big leopard and has a very athletic build. A distinguishable feature is his striking orange eyes. To our north, he is known as “Lamula”.  From now on he will be known as the (new) Gowrie male. Incidentally, this is the same male that ousted the (old) Gowrie male who died in the early stages of 2012. This male leopard has been seen mating with the Campbell Koppies female as well as her daughter, the Mlowathi female. The main areas that he visits are around the Mlowathi River, and the core of his new kingdom lies further to the north. There is a possibility that he may conflict with the Airstrip male at some stage, a leopard that also enjoys visiting the rich areas of the Mlowathi River. Another potential competitor is the Tslebe Rocks male whose domain lies further east. We will watch developments with interest.

Tslebe Rocks male by Matt Meyer

Thlebe Rocks Male leopard by Matt Meyer

Thlebe Rocks male

Date of Birth: 2004

Mother: Outcrop female of Lion Sands

Father: Tumbela

This is another leopard that expanded his territory after the disappearance of the Emsagwen male. It would stand to reason then why we had not seen much of him previously. His core territory lies to our north where he is known as “Mvula”, and he is surely very dominant there. He is seen around the very eastern parts of the Mlowathi River, extending to Matshipiri Dam of Buffalo Bush Dam – a very large piece of land indeed. He is an impressive specimen and well sized, and he sired two more-or-less independent sons – the leopard known as “Wabayiza”, son of “Thandi”, and a nameless male of almost the same same age from a female known as “Inkanyeni”. He has been seen mating with the Ostrich Koppies female, who was also recently seen mating with the Airstrip male.

Mlowathi female by Matt Meyer

Mlowathi female by Matt Meyer

Mlowathi female

Date of Birth: January 2007

Mother: Campbell Koppies female

Father: Unknown

This female leopard was previously called the “daughter of the Campbell Koppies female 2007”. She is almost exclusively seen around the Mlowathi River system, and further to the west. The greater part of her territory lies to the north and we are not sure of the arrangements with her mother and her older sister (the Ostrich Koppies female), as all of these females have territories that must surely overlap to some degree. The father of the Mlowathi female was the old Gowrie male. In 2011, we saw the Mlowathi female for the first time after she had become independent from her mother, and she had a young male cub with her of around seven months old. Unfortunately this cub must have died as subsequent sightings of the female were without the cub. We have since seen her mating with the (new) Gowrie male. Her mother has also been seen mating with this newly territorial male. The Mlowathi female has also been mating with Airstrip male, an interesting event, as she ventured far from her home region to seek out this particular male. A mere few weeks later the Ostrich Koppies female did the exact same thing by also travelling a great distance to request the services of the same male.

Western female

Date of Birth: January 1998

Mother: Mangeni female

Father: Unknown

This ageing female was formerly known as the “female leopard from Sparta”. She is well known to the west where she is called the “Maxabene female”. The heart of her territory is west, so we do not see her too often and sightings of her are limited to the Airstrip and around Flockfield Tower. She has successfully raised three sons to independence. Most notable are the Hogvaal  and Newington males. Luck has not been on her side, and we understand that she has endured many failed litters throughout her life.

PLEASE NOTE: Animals on MalaMala are named after their territories. This means that a) only the predators have been given names and b) we only know the animals according to the names we have given them, as they are based on the territories within MalaMala’s boundaries.

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