Leaving Little Bush Camp, my tracker picked up on some very fresh male leopard tracks in the early morning light, just a few minutes outside of the lodge. After explaining the tracks to the guests we began our search for the male. Guest’s anticipation is always very high combined with a few butterflies in their stomachs knowing that this powerful and elusive animal was so close to the lodge itself.
Following the signs that he had left and with the help of another two guides and their trackers, we were all very confused as the tracks seemed to be all around us. Following in front to all of a sudden having tracks behind us. It was as if this male was in two places at once.
With the skill of the trackers and a bit of patience, we honed in. All of a sudden we could hear the loud and powerful territorial call of a male leopard. With adrenalin on the increase, we knew we were on the right track.
Then it all happened almost simultaneously – the Sandriver male was found with Mahlathini male; in the same sequence of events. The territorial calling continued with both males salivating heavily, showing the in-bedded anger that a male leopard has when they pick up on an intruder in their territory.
With the two male’s roars closing in on each other, we followed at a respectable distance in anticipation of the events that might transpire. It was on: a classic battle with age and experience on the one side (Sandriver male) versus youth and power on the other (Mahlathini).
As the males honed in on one other, deep growls came from both sides with the males not more then 40 meters apart. As time transpired the gap closed to 30 meters, 20 meters, then down to just 10 meters apart. Anticipation of an epic battle could be felt amongst everyone that had the privilege to witness this rarely seen part of the life of a male leopard.
With both males so evenly matched and not wanting to risk injury, they remained at a close distance but never coming to blows. With them eventually both moving off in opposite directions, both calling and scent marking profusely on their separate paths.
The future bodes to be interesting. Will the old man be able to defend his kingdom or has the time come for a new ruler to take over?! Only time will tell.