MEET THE LEOPARDS OF PONDORO.
I thought it’s about time we introduce you to the elusive rosette patterned cats that roam within our traversing in Balule Game Reserve.
How do we identify each individual? Well apart from obvious signs like scars in their face, maybe a few nicks in the ears, a short/bent tail or maybe looking at the spots between the eyes there are many different ways and we also spend so much time in the bush we get to know their territories, but there is an easier way. We look at the spot pattern just above the top whisker line which will be unique to each individual, this method (along with many others) is also used by the world leader in big cat conservation, Panthera.
So let’s meet the leopards, first up is Chavaluthu (fear nothing). The most well known among the leopards. He has fathered many of the cubs at Pondoro but in the last year or so has felt the pressure of younger, equally in size, males looking for females or trying to expand their own territory. So far Chavaluthu has managed to keep the hungry males at bay.
I don’t have much on the Mohlabetsi female, she has always been very difficult to photograph due to her personality. She is also the mother of Faka Nchovela, Thuli and Nkanyi.
Faka Nchovela, she is such a unique leopardess and one with a personality that is hard to understand. She has also given me the most amazing sightings especially kills.
Thuli has a very secretive way of moving through the bush and she always make it a challenge, but if you succeed in following her you will be rewarded.
Nkanyi, apart from Chavaluthu, is probably the most relaxed leopard around. She is an amazing animal and individual to view and spent time with and let one in on the world of leopards.
The above mentioned leopards are our regulars and below are some that we have seen a few times and are able to identify. Butt there are so many more leopards around that are just not used to the vehicles yet and sightings are usually very brief glimpses.
Watsakile is a male that roamed this area some years ago and is also as relaxed as can be but have since moved to the west and have become very elusive. In my nearly 2 years at pondoro I have only seen him twice.
Another male leopard the roams around in the east that is fairly relaxed with the vehicles as long as we keep a distance. We have seen him more and more in the last few months and hopefully he will settle in soon.
A young male leopard that is now around a year old, we have seen him with his sister and his mother before but they are not as content as he is.