July 2021

A safari tracking Hosana

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A safari tracking Hosana

Working in the north with the tracking team we located the Hosana male leopard feeding on a year-old impala lamb, perfectly hoisted in a marula tree. My fingers were crossed that he would not finish off his carcass and would remain in the area until the arrival of our in transit guests who were travelling with private guide, Tristan Dicks. They were desperately wanting to connect with the famed, now grown-up feline that they had been following on Wild Earth (live televised safari programme) as a cub!

On the morning of our guests’ arrival, I heard over the radio that Hosana had scoffed his kill earlier in the morning, descended the marula tree and was moving in a south westerly direction into an area where it was unlikely to follow him, let alone find him! As soon as the guests had settled into the lodge we headed out into the field in search of our target. 

At his last position, his tracks confirmed that he had moved into the area we dreaded, and we could not follow up on him any further!

For the next four safari drives we searched the entirety of our northern traversing area known as Othawa, without finding Hosana. We checked all his favourite waterholes, roads where he patrols and territories of female leopards that he might have joined. Our search was not completely in vain, because we managed to find tracks of a female leopard who we believed belonged to the Nkangala female, and found a leopard cub close to Mzembe Dam, where I have seen Hosana on many occasions. With much discussion around mating, time of pregnancy and the size of the cub, we concluded that Hosana was now a father as we had seen him mating with the Nkangala female on two different occasions and that she was the only known dominant female in the area that overlaps within his territory.

On the morning of our fifth safari and driving the same roads we were confident that the time had come for Hosana to leave us a fresh sign and that our luck would turn… We found fresh tracks of a male leopard and fresher tracks of a female in the same area. Emmanuel was on foot tracking, Tristan was on the tracking seat and the guests and I were in the vehicle checking the roads where Hosana could have walked. After about two hours of searching thick vegetated blocks and driving many roads with Emmanuel now back on the vehicle, we found fresher tracks again of a male leopard and this time I joined Emmanuel on foot trying to find Hosana.

By this time, the sun was a lot higher in the sky and we reckoned that the “The Little Chief” was lying down somewhere next to a waterhole. On route back to camp we checked one last waterhole before turning south to make our way to the Sand River. There he was, lying in the shade of a small guarri bush next to a large waterhole! On our approach his head left the ground for a few seconds to watch us and then he lay down again.

We sat with him admiring his coat, disposition, ability to move through the heat of the day when most large cats are resting, and were just ecstatic to have found him! After about ten minutes he yawned a few times and then got up and started moving in an easterly direction. Looping around onto the road we found him again as he popped out on the road off a game path and then he decided to make his way into a thick area. He went into hunting mode, stalking what we believed to be a grey duiker. Staying put for a few minutes he then shot off ahead of us chasing his prey but was unsuccessful in catching it! He then made his way to another waterhole where he had a drink and then lay down for another moment before running around the waterhole to what we think was a warthog coming for a drink.

With no success he came back to the waterhole, laid down in some shade where we could join him and watched him sleeping. By this time, it was midday and his body language suggested that he would not be lying down for too long. He got up after about twenty minutes and progressed through thickets of bushwillows, cluster leaf and black monkey orange trees that just became denser and denser as we tried to keep up with him!

Satisfied by a successful mission, we decided to leave “The Little Chief” to his antics and abandoned the task of following him through an exceedingly difficult area.

Quinton Paul Josop
By Quinton Paul Josop
Field Guide