It was February 2013, when we first saw a young male Leopard that would the leopard dynamics in the northern Manyeleti. Up until that point, we had the Beacon male leopard controlling a massive territory. One day we’d see him up in the northern parts of his territory on Vulture pan, and the next morning he was close to the lodge. When Rhulani first arrived, we started noticing that Beacon was spending more and more time in the north as well. Slowly but surely, they started occupying the same area’s and we knew a massive showdown was looming. And in the middle of the night, in August 2013 it happened! And the new up and coming Rhulani male had forced the massive Beacon male from that part of his territory. The rise of a Manyeleti legend had begun!
As Rhulani gradually moved south, he came into contact with the Beacon male again on several occasions. Rhulani seemed unstoppable, he brushed the older male aside and over the space on two years, he’d pushed Beacon completely out of his territory. We started seeing Rhulani in the Main Dam area, south of Main Dam and then a day later in the north close to Koppies. We started seeing that Rhulani’s territory was increasing to a size that he probably wouldn’t be able to maintain. The in August last year, we found the Rhulani male, and his condition wasn’t looking good. We speculated that with the size of his territory, he spent more time patrolling his hard earned turf and less time hunting and finding food. The sheer size of his territory was becoming his undoing!
It was at this point last year, that the unthinkable happened. The Beacon male returned, at the age of 11 years old, he was back for the fight. The 2 males squared up at a Warthog kill at Wild dog dam, and the older Beacon managed to push the younger Rhulani off of his own kill! At the same time, the Ntsuntsu male Leopard pushed in from the north. Rhulani was facing multiple incursions on multiple fronts. There was no way that he could deal with both males, and it seems he’s done the smart thing. It looks like he’s retreated into the heart of his territory, smaller in size, but easier to defend. Below is a map that we think is his current territory, judging from sightings and seeing his tracks in the last six months.
Slowly but surely the dynamics between the three males seems to be relaxing, with the Ntsuntsu male moving freely through the north and Beacon moving in the southern and western parts of the affected area. It’s really amazing how things change in the space of a year, and we can’t wait to take stock of what has happened in a year from now!
Until the next blog
Darren and the Tintswalo Safari Team.