For all of us at Singita Pamushana, and those that live here at Malilangwe (meaning Call of the Leopard) – this territorial male leopard holds a very special place in our hearts. He has a calm relaxed nature and an acceptance and tolerance of us to observe his life. He allows our guests to capture amazing pictures of him which always makes one smile as we relive the beauty of such a magnificent majestic animal. But I think what makes him particularly special to us is knowing him for so long, knowing and being a part of his life story and having that personal connection to him, thanks to the quality time we spend together.
Here’s an insight into his life:
He is approximately 7 to 9 years old. I have known him for the last five years, and he was already a sexually mature young adult when I first encountered him.
He is a big solid cat. I guestimate him to be around the 70 kg (154 lbs) mark.
He covers a large area of about 9 km2, and there are probably about four or five female leopards in this area.
He has moved areas due to pressure from another male leopard and now covers the areas around Hwata, Makeche and Ganyani, and has done so for the past four years.
He has a very distinctive split nose. This injury was from a vicious fight with a younger but strong male leopard. (It was not from an altercation with a porcupine as some have guessed.) The showdown took place on the Banyini and resulted in him getting his nose torn and his head bitten as well as other wounds and scratches. The outcome of the fight was that he was pushed further south to the territory he now holds.
This is an amazing cat and I have known him for many years now. When I first met him he was impressive in stature but very shy, and as time went on he became more confident but a little aggressive if we crossed his personal boundary space – this could be from as far away as 30 yards in a vehicle.
However, as time went on he became more trusting of us, and would allow us to sit and watch him without too much concern. Then one day, and I’ll never forget this day, I saw him in an area we call Nyanga. He was walking in the distance and when he saw the vehicle he turned and casually walked over to us, coming up as close as five metres away. He sat down in an open piece of land and starting grooming himself, yawning and posing as if he was on a “cat walk”, lapping up all the attention as we gasped and awed at this National Geographic moment. It was clear to me that he was making a statement and I was only too happy to experience this amazing transition.
From this day onwards, all of us got to enjoy the most splendid sightings of this amazingly gorgeous cat as he went about his day to day life – patrolling his territory, mating, drinking from pans and mud puddles, lazing around on a tree branch with his impala kill. I won’t forget how he watched me one day, just yards away, as I was struggling to get my vehicle unstuck from the mud – there was not a smidgen of concern on his face, just a typical cat’s look of smugness!
We have enjoyed the pleasure of watching him hunt without concern for us being around – his favourite catch during the rains when then grass is longer is young zebra. It’s quite a sight seeing the extreme contrast of a spotted leopard pattern on top of the black and white striped pattern of zebra, all up in an umbrella tree, surrounded by huge white thorns – a stark reminder of the harsh realities of life in the bush for some.
He is truly a special mascot of the Malilangwe Reserve.