Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Exciting month for Limpopo-Lipadi Leopard Identification Project

It has been an exciting couple of months regarding the leopards of Limpopo-Lipadi.

One special story is about a male leopard, known as Odirile.  Odirile was first seen, together with his mother (Maya) on the access road in September 2013.  Subsequently, he was again photographed at Tholo dam in February 2014, this time as a young solitary male.  He was photographed end of October again, close to Two Cribs waterhole, and he is now a beautiful, big male leopard – even having the courage to stalk a kudu bull! 

Then there was the excitement of spotting another unidentified leopard early in November, drinking at the Shareholder’s gate waterhole.  He is a young male, and his name will be Thabo – meaning “Joy”!

On the 24th of November 2014 I had an amazing sighting at Rock plate, south of Mogorosi waterhole.  We actually stopped to have a look at a Giant plated lizard, when Delia, one of our guests spotted a leopard!  We moved closer, and found out that there were in fact 2 leopards, a male and a female.   What a sight to be in the presence of this totally relaxed mating couple, in perfect afternoon light on the open rocks of Rock plate.  We were able to spend time with them until nightfall.  After returning to camp, and going through our photos, we were able to confirm that the male was Maanyi, and the female the beautiful Maya!  So be on the look-out for Maya’s cubs and send through your photos if you are lucky enough to spot them!  Maya’s territory is between Mogorosi waterhole, and Tholo dam / Access road to the south.

On 27 November 2014 we had another special sighting, this time very close to camp, on Hunter’s Way.  Just after 5AM Felix Reinders (a guest of us), spotted a leopard sitting quietly watching us.  After spending some time watching her (it turned out to be a fairly skittish female, called Limpadi), we heard her making soft calls… She was calling her two +-8month old cubs!  We spent the next 4 hours with the 2 cubs, with Limpadi the mother probably watching us from somewhere in the thick raisin bushes!  The one cub entertained us thoroughly – stalking and chasing after an impala, and later playing with his cousin, the leopard tortoise! The other cub had a shy personality, and was keeping an eye on us through the vegetation.

The shy cub was in fact identified as being Thabo!  The other cub will be named Olebile, meaning “he is watching”.  Thank you Felix Reinders for naming the cub.

We are looking forward to many more sightings of these new additions to the Limpopo-Lipadi leopard family in the next decade or so!

About the Limpopo-Lipadi Leopard Identification Project:
I don’t think anybody actually knows how the project got under way, but here is the story!

I have an immense passion (maybe bordering on an obsession rather) for the bush, wildlife and the birds of Southern Africa.  Staying in Pretoria, not to far from the African bush, I have the opportunity to spend time with nature on a regular basis.  When on a trip (day-trip or extended), I keep a journal of all my sightings.

So back in June 2010, I had my first sighting of a magical Limpopo-Lipadi leopard north of Zanzibar Dam.  As he was very relaxed, I was able to make some notes in my journal regarding his specific spot pattern especially on his face.  For more than a year, and 6 leopard sightings later – I made similar sketches in my journal of the individual leopards seen at Limpopo-Lipadi.  I realized that this process of identifying different leopards gave a unique emotional connection with the individuals, and on the other side, doing it on my own - the process was very restricted and slow. 

That is when I contacted Magnus Hird, a fellow shareholder with similar passions.  We then started sharing images and started working on a database.  Soon we were receiving photos from like-minded shareholders, and our database grew exponentially. 

In September 2013 Magnus and I met at Limpopo-Lipadi, and in an attempt to get more shareholder involvement, we started the “Limpopo-Lipadi Leopard Identification Project” Facebook Page.  Please search it on Facebook and like the page.  There is an album for each individual leopard as well, so you can also enjoy the process of identifying a leopard! 

Another way to identify leopards on your own, is to make use of the “Tracking the Wild” website and Applications for Android/Mac.  An identikit was also set up on their page.

Now, a bit more than 4 years down the line, we have identified 23 different individual leopards – and that is only the area south of Black Rock, as we haven’t captured any usable photos of leopards in the Northern section of the Reserve.  We are starting to understand their individual territories, and the family trees are starting to take shape!  

We need your help, get involved!

If you are lucky enough to get a decent photo of a leopard on the Reserve, please do the following:

1.     Email the photo to: lipadileopards@gmail.com
2.     Include:
a.     The date
b.     Location
c.      Male / female if possible

If it is an unidentified individual, you will have the opportunity to name the individual, not often you get to name a wild leopard!

Limpopo-Lipadi is one of the most reliable places to find leopard, and if you happen to find one, please approach them with respect and patience.  Eventually they will see game drive vehicles as part of their environment, and we will have years of wonderful leopard viewing to follow!

Thank you
Kind regards

Anton Kruger

All photos Copyright Anton Kruger, except where mentioned otherwise