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Leopards keep up the magic of the bush

  • August 09, 2018 | Rhulani Safari Lodge

Our statistics show that we find the largest animals of the African bush quite often. So, no guest will leave Rhulani disappointed. For our rangers, however, the leopard is one of the big challenges, although lately the frequency of sightings has also increased. What is the chance to see leopards?

A typical picture: a leopard hanging in the tree

Recent highlight: Hyena chases a leopard away

Recent highlight: Mating leopards

Recent highlight: Leopard mum with cub climbing

In our modern world, everything is controlled and planned. Also here in the 75’000 hectares of the park, the intelligence to find wild animals is steadily improving, and our experienced rangers have excellent tracking skills. This reduces the uncertainties of a safari. But Madikwe Game Reserve is not a zoo. What you will see remains uncertain. You will be surprised by the unexpected. Every day you will be amazed by new wonders of nature. Fortunately, we think, a leopard cannot be ordered by pressing a button.

“We had absolutely fantastic leopard sightings. For the past three days, I've had five in three days, and three of them with kills”, says Alasdair of Rhulani's Ranger team. In fact, the likelihood of seeing a leopard during one game drive seems to increase. Our funny Alasdair says with a smile: “It is because us rangers are so dam good.” But are there further reasons?

Leopards, like most large carnivores, are notoriously difficult to monitor. They range widely, occur at low densities and are generally elusive. According to a recent study, it is not even clear how many leopards have their home in our reserve. What we know is that there are more leopards than cheetahs or wild dogs, but less than lions. But is the number 20? 30? Or even more as there are so many shy animals you will never see? Even if we knew the exact number, it would not be a reliable information. For leopards it is easy to jump over the fence of the reserve.

Those leopards we see usually on our game drives are not afraid of our vehicle. The female “Tsala” got offspring last year and is seen since then with her now almost equal daughter. We've also seen the male “Munye” a lot lately, once on a kill, or in a typical position hanging in a tree. Stewart, field guide and Alasdairs colleague, says: “The more frequent sightings certainly have to do with the smaller lion population, and that the current drought allows us to look deeper into the bush.”

It is not assumed by our Rangers that the leopard population has increased recently. This is also confirmed by the recent study, which describes the population as "fairly stable". However, in view of the difficulties to monitor leopards, this statement is uncertain.

In conclusion, we can say that we have not much information about how many leopards are in the reserve, nor do we know where they are. We fully trust the good sense of our experienced rangers, excellent communication in the team, and the tracking skills. For our guests a possible leopard-sighting remains a surprise with a small but acceptable likelihood. Leopards keep up the magic of the bush. And that's what a safari should be like, don’t you agree?

Beautiful sunset with the contours of a leopard