Recently there has been a lot of talk between rangers regarding the movements of the Bicycle Crossing male. Out of all the dominant male leopards currently on MalaMala, the Bicycle Crossing male is the oldest and it is he who has reigned over his respective territory the longest.
Born in February of 2002, he has stood the test of time and has done battle over the years with some of the most notorious leopards that have roamed our property (such as the late Emsagwen male), and he has outlived most of them. His known offspring that can currently be seen on MalaMala include the Airstrip Male, Charleston Male, Son of the Dudley Female 2009, Tamboti Female and the Daughter of the Kikilezi Female. The Bicycle Crossing male’s territory is vast, but it does appear to be shifting yet again.
There has been a definite movement eastwards in the Bicycle Crossing male’s territory. At points along the eastern bank of the Sand River, where he often crosses west, he is now repeatedly turning east and walking further east than he normally does. Thus, we are enjoying more regular sightings of him and gaining a better understanding of the gauntlets he traverses – new and old. With this new insight came the notable discovery of one of his ‘hang outs’- a granite cave embedded in the banks of a drainage system, just north of the Kapen River. This secluded cave, situated just below a seep-line, comes complete with a water feature, as a narrow stream of crystal clear water trickles quietly over the flat rocks at the cave’s entrance. A typical leopard’s lair, if ever we saw one.
We’ve seen the Bicycle Crossing male go as far east as Paradise Valley, just around the northern reaches of the Tjellahanga River.
There are a number of younger male leopards inhabiting the outer reaches of his territory, including the West Street male, the son of the Dudley female 2009, the Newington male and the Hogvaal male (and that’s just in the north), but if any of them came to blows with this veteran dominant male, they would surely be weighed, they would be measured and they would be found wanting. There is a distinct possibility that his eastward shift is a result of pressure from the west. Despite his age, he is still one of the biggest male leopards around, and we can’t think of too many leopards that would cause him any concern.
Whatever the reasons for his shifting of territory may be, we are not complaining- we’re getting to see more and more of this impressive leopard…a true legend of MalaMala!
Pieter van Wyk
Ranger – MalaMala Game Reserve